Prison guards ‘deployed 1,700 times to plug gaps at understaffed jails’
Campaigners said the policy was a ‘gross waste of public money’.
Prison guards were deployed to understaffed jails more than 1,700 times last year — at a cost of £2.4 million.
Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon told the Press Association that the figures revealed the “chaos at the heart of the Government’s prisons strategy”.
In all, guards were dispatched to “plug gaps” 1,787 times in 2017, according to Government figures.
Hotel stays and travel expenses from January to November last year came to £2,488,180 — a sum that could employ 108 full-time prison officers on £23,000 a year.
The Ministry of Justice described the ability to deploy staff, on what is known as detached duty, as a “sensible and proportionate” response to “resource pressures”.
However Mr Burgon said it was a case of “papering over the cracks”.
He said: “With the Justice Ministry facing the deepest cuts of any department, spending vast sums moving prison officers around the country to plug staffing gaps underlines the chaos at the heart of this Government’s prisons strategy.
“Shifting staff to one prison only takes them away from another.
“This is a costly policy that is simply papering over the cracks.
“It fails to address the root cause of the crisis in our prisons which is the disastrous Tory decision to axe thousands of prison officers which has left our prisons more dangerous than ever.”
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform charity which campaigns for change in prisons, said the policy was a “gross waste of public money”.
She added: “Staff do not like to be dislocated from their workplace and families, and they are not able to offer consistent and stable support in prisons that are already struggling.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Prison officers do a challenging and vital job to help protect the public and we are committed to making sure we have enough staff to deliver safe regimes in our prisons.
“Detached duty is one of the sensible and proportionate measures we take to cover resourcing pressures and ensure we run safe and decent regimes in prisons as well as being able to respond appropriately to any operational issues that arise.
“When there is a need to accommodate staff in hotels, we work hard to ensure the best possible value for money for the taxpayer and have restrictions in place to help keep costs to a minimum.”