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Liz Truss to resume talks with prison officers over service 'in meltdown'

Published 17/11/2016

Prison officers outside Pentonville Prison in north London take part in a day of protest on Tuesday
Prison officers outside Pentonville Prison in north London take part in a day of protest on Tuesday

Justice Secretary Liz Truss will resume talks with the prison officers' union after thousands of staff stopped working amid claims the service was "in meltdown".

The National Offender Management Service contacted the Prison Officers Association to offer a meeting with Ms Truss on Thursday.

POA members held protests outside jails around the country on Tuesday after talks with the Government over health and safety concerns broke down.

Officers were ordered back to work after the Government sought an emergency injunction at the High Court.

Last night a Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The Government welcomes the POA's decision to stop yesterday's unlawful industrial action and that prison officers have returned to work.

"We are committed to improving safety across the prison estate and are already taking action.

"This includes tackling the use of drugs, mobile phones and drones while recruiting new staff and improving protection for staff.

"The Justice Secretary already met with the POA earlier this month but would not do so again until they called off their unlawful action.

"Now that prison officers are back at work she will meet the POA and invites them to resume talks with her team."

The action by the POA followed a string of high profile incidents at prisons, including an alleged murder, a riot and the escape of two inmates.

Two prisoners escaped from Pentonville prison in north London earlier this month - sparking a manhunt in which they were eventually recaptured.

Weeks earlier, inmate Jamal Mahmoud, 21, died after being stabbed at the jail on October 18 in an attack which left two others injured. And on November 6, up to 200 prisoners went on a rampage in HMP Bedford.

Announcing the action, the union said the "continued surge in violence and unprecedented levels of suicide and acts of self harm", coupled with the recent alleged murder and escapes "demonstrate that the service is in meltdown".

Up to 10,000 staff joined the protest and courts were hit by disruption as a result.

There have been a string of warnings about safety behind bars after statistics revealed soaring levels of violence in jails in England and Wales, with assaults on staff up by 43% in the year to June.

Earlier this month Ms Truss unveiled her blueprint for prison reform.

Measures includes a recruitment drive to add 2,500 new officers to the front line and "no-fly zones" to stop drones dropping drugs and other contraband into prisons.

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