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19 May 2022

New figures reveal exodus of prison staff

The prison service is struggling to retain the new prison officers it is recruiting, raising questions over its ability to run a safe and purposeful regime whilst also preparing for a predicted rise in prison numbers of 20,000 by 2026.

New figures published today by the Ministry of Justice today (19 May 2022) reveal:

  • A leaving rate of 14.5% amongst band 3-5 prison officers—an increase of 5.4 percentage points compared to the year ending 31 March 2021.
  • A leaving rate of 18.3% for band 2 operational support staff—an increase of 6.4 percentage points compared to the year before.
  • Half of officers (50%) who left the service last year had been in the role for less than three years, more than a quarter (26%) left after less than a year.

Reacting to these figures, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“After more than 2 years locked in their cells because of Covid, the prospects for prisoners getting out of their cells to do all the work, education and rehabilitation the government has promised look very bleak. A Covid crisis has morphed immediately into a staffing crisis. 60% more prison officers left in the last year than in the preceding year — nearly 1 in 7 — with three quarters of them choosing to resign. The situation is even worse for support grades — all people who do essential jobs that keep any prison afloat.

“None of this should come as a surprise to the government — it is just a further deterioration in a trend from as far back as 2016. Throwing inadequately trained new recruits at the problem is no solution. Yet ministers glory in the fact that they plan to increase prison capacity by 20,000 over the next 3 years, whether or not there will be anyone there to unlock the doors.

“We know what happens when there are too many prisoners and too few prison staff — more violence, self-harm and suicide, and less rehabilitation. That is where the government’s love affair with imprisonment is leading. It’s time to think again.”