Public and Commercial Services Union
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Select committee criticises prison cuts
PCS echoed concerns over the impact of ‘efficiency savings’ expressed recently (3 Nov) by the House of Commons Justice select committee in a hard hitting report on the role of the prison officer.
In its report, the committee supported the union’s view that cuts in funding for prison officers would damage efforts to reduce re-offending rates. Despite a rising prison population, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is required to make savings of approximately £900 million by 2011.
50% of the MoJ's total budget is spent on the new National Offender Management Service (NOMS), half of which is allocated to prisons. The committee indentified that 72% of the Prison Service's budget goes on staff, concluding: “It seems inevitable, therefore, that the MoJ is looking for a significant cut in funding for prison officers further reducing the ratio of prison officers to prisoners.”
The union which represents governors, managers, administrative staff and instructional officers in the Prison Service welcomed the committee’s view that: “the Workforce Modernisation Programme, as currently proposed, represents a missed opportunity to develop the right Prison Service for the twenty-first century.”
The committee went on to criticise the government’s policies to cluster prisons and create large prisons housing 1,500 inmates warning that they were: “likely further to deskill the prison officer’s role to that of a 'turnkey'.”
If the government are serious on being tough on the causes of crime then they need to put the resources in to the justice system to ensure that prison staff have the resources to rehabilitate offenders
PCS who gave formal oral and written evidence to the committee, also warned that the government’s policy of privately run prisons undermines efforts to reduce the prison population and re-habilitate offenders.
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: "The Committee have rightly identified that cuts and so called efficiency savings will only have a negative impact re-offending rates. If the government are serious on being tough on the causes of crime then they need to put the resources in to the justice system to ensure that prison staff have the resources to rehabilitate offenders."
Peter Olech, PCS negotiations officer for the Prison Service, added: "This has recognised the value of work undertaken by staff in the public sector prison service. This has to be contrasted with the poor performance of the private-sector and the high turnover of staff in privately run prisons.
"It comes as no surprise that last year 10 out of 11 privately run prisons were in the bottom quarter of a scorecard used to measure the overall performance of prisons. The government has to drop its fixation with the private sector where there is no incentive to re-habilitate offenders and drive prison numbers down."