On Wednesday 30th November, Prisons Minister Damian Hinds, announced to Parliament that due to an "acute and sudden increase in the prison population" in recent months the Operation Safeguard contingency plan had been launched for the first time since 2007. Operation Safeguard is used when HMPPS is running out of prison places and the Government have to ask police to utilise their cells to make sure there is enough accommodation for the prison population.

There are currently 121 prisons in England and Wales and 82,700 people in jail. Mr Hinds also said further prison places would become available in the spring due to a new prison and additional housing blocks being built.

General Secretary Steve Gillan commented,

“The Government reaps what it sows. In the last 10 years 18 prisons have been closed along with a large number of Magistrates Courts. These cuts have serious consequences, and the use of Operation Safeguard by the Government is an absolute fiasco”.

National Chair Mark Fairhurst stated,

“Mr Hinds’ comments that Operation Safeguard is an established procedure "to ensure our prison system can operate effectively and safely during periods of high demand" just proves to me how out of touch he is. The Prison Service is in crisis. There are many spaces available within prisons, but HMPPS and the Government are unable to utilise them due to the recruitment and retention problems in our prisons.

His comments that this is only a temporary use of police cells does not ring true. Until he resolves the Prison Service recruitment and retention problems by remunerating our members appropriately, I have no confidence whatsoever that the Prison Service can get near operating effectively or safely in these times of high demand”.





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Representing over 30,000 Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers, the POA is the largest UK Union in this sector, able to trace its roots back more than 100 years.