POA Circulars

72 | 13.06.2014

Prison Overcrowding

On Friday 6th June 2014, NOMS advised the NEC that their predictions on the prison population were “wrong” and as a result they had to look at measures to increase the prison capacity by 440 places.

NOMS provided the POA with a list of prisons which have been identified to accept an increase to their Operational Capacity (Op Cap) from August 2014 this is attached at Annex A.

The NEC are also aware that private sector prisons overcrowding mechanisms have been invoked to increase capacity by 900. This is at significant cost to the tax payer

This decision reaffirms that the Prison Service is in crisis and that short sighted cost cutting measures don’t provide “safe, decent and secure” prisons.

The NEC has also been advised that NOMS are introducing Segregation Units and or Care and Resettlement Units into the certified normal accommodation (CNA) this is totally unacceptable. We would draw branch officials attention to PSI 17-2012, which is attached at Annex B for ease of reference. The Executive have serious concerns over the actions of local management who are locating prisoners due to be discharged the following day in segregation/care and resettlement units, so that they can maximise the use of prison accommodation. This is a dangerous and unacceptable practice which must be resisted in every establishment. These areas are specifically excluded from the CNA to ensure that good order and discipline is maintained within all prisons and that those prisoners are cared for and supervised in safe conditions.

It is clear that the majority of prisons have been through the “Benchmark” process which sets out staffing levels, regimes and staff to prisoner ratios. The principles of Benchmarking is that “resources follow prisoners” and any increase in capacity will impact on safe systems of work, risk assessments and regimes. This in turn will significantly impact on good order and discipline.
On the 11th June 2014 at the NEC Meeting the Executive fully debated the potential impact this decision to further overcrowd prisons could have on prison security, staff and prisoners safety and of course public confidence. The POA has consistently warned NOMS that the prison population is not an exact science. NOMS seem to accept that institutional overcrowding is acceptable. The POA do not agree with this view.

To compound the problems of an increasing prison population, NOMS have allowed too many staff to leave through VED’s alongside a 2 year recruitment freeze. This has created a chronic staffing problem across a Service now totally reliant on “staff goodwill”, detached duty and the use of payment plus or additional unpaid hours. The Executive believe this decision to further overcrowd our prisons is a step too far.

The Executive have instructed our legal advisors to seek to prevent NOMS from further increasing the Operational Capacity of our prisons.

The Executive are aware that NOMS will instruct Governors to engage with POA committee’s to seek agreement to increase your prison capacity. Local Committees should engage in the process, but register a local dispute if they believe it is “unsafe” to increase the prison capacity.

Please revisit the recent Gatelodge Extra for further advice.

Please draw the contents of the Circular to your members.

A Press Release has been sent out and the issues will be raised at our Justice Union Parliamentary Group on Wednesday 18th June 2014.

Yours sincerely

General Secretary