More prison officers in Eastwood Park to tackle increase in assault and self-harm
The number of prison officers in Eastwood Park Prison has increased over the last year, as the establishment tackles rising levels of assault and self-harm.
Joseph Hook, data reporter
But unions have warned of high turnover rates among prison staff, with inexperienced officers facing more violence and drug use among prisoners.
Newly-released figures from the Ministry of Justice show that there were 14 more officers in Eastwood Park Prison in March this year than a year previously - an increase of 8%.
The government has hired more than 3,000 prison officers since 2016, following a six-year period during which the prison service lost nearly a third of its workforce.
This means there are now 191 prison officers working in Eastwood Park Prison.
Figures released last month showed that there were 194 assaults in Eastwood Park last year, more than seven times the level in 2012. Of those assaults, 73 were on staff. Cases of self-harm had also more than doubled over five years.
The prison was also found to be overcrowded, with 369 prisoners placed into cells designed for just 382.
Glyn Travis, the assistant general secretary of the Prison Officers' Association, said the high turnover of staff in prisons was a cause for concern.
He said: "The biggest problem that we see now is that a lot of establishments have more than 50% of staff who have less than two years' service in prisons.
"The attrition rate, for people who leave the service in the first 12 months, is about 16% - that's a massive increase since 2010, when it was around 2%.
"In prisons, there are serious acts of violence every day on staff and on other prisoners. The NHS have said that they have concerns for nurses in prisons being in contact with fumes from drugs - prison officers are in this environment every day."
The justice secretary, David Gauke, said that 3,111 prison officers were recruited between October 2016 and March 2018, surpassing a government pledge to recruit 2,500 prison officers by the end of this year.
He said: "Let me be clear - the recruitment drive continues and will continue until we reach required levels across the prison estate, with the same urgency that has secured this remarkable influx of new staff."