Prison staff ‘almost routinely’ assaulted with little action taken against perpetrators

Some staff report being assaulted more than ten times in the past year.

Sarah Jane
17 June 2019

Drug use is ‘literally poisoning the atmosphere in our prisons’.

Research published today examines claims of widespread employee concern about the effects of understaffing including the loss of experienced staff, overcrowding and drug use in prisons.


The research reveals that over a quarter of staff working in prisons have been the victim of physical violence within the last year.

One in seven staff who reported experiencing recent physical violence have been assaulted more than ten times in the past year.

The Joint Unions in Prisons Alliance (JUPA), a coalition of trade unions and professional organisation, claims that of those who reported a physical assault to their employer, more than half were dissatisfied with the action taken.

In a further 20% of cases, respondents said no action was taken at all against the perpetrator.


Violence against staff is unacceptable.

Brian Morton, co-Chair of the JUPA and National Officer at the Royal College of Nursing said: “Prisons will always be tough environments, but violence against staff should be seen as exceptional, and always unacceptable.

“Unfortunately, assaults are now almost a routine experience for many people who work in prisons.  Poor reporting mechanisms and a failure to investigate the causes and consequences of these events is leaving staff feeling helpless and hopeless – with our research showing that 66 per cent feel things have got worse in the last twelve months.  50 per cent have no confidence that things will improve, and if the present staffing crisis is allowed to continue, they will probably be proved right.

“To make matters worse, drug use is literally poisoning the atmosphere in our prisons, forcing some staff to carry out their duties while experiencing secondary effects.  This is a new low in the history of our penal system and must be addressed as a matter of priority.

“The new Minister for prisons has an unenviable task in dealing with years of underinvestment in the people who keep our prisons running.  Listening to them is the first step towards building a prison service that is fit for purpose.”


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