A ROW has erupted over whether prison staffing numbers at HMP Hewell have halved over four years.
The Howard League for Penal Reform announced this week officers at the Tardebigge prison had been cut from 330 in August 2010 to 170 in June this year, a cut of 48 per cent.
Across the West Midlands they said staff had been cut from 1,917 to 1,180.
But the Ministry of Justice has claimed the statistics have been altered to make them seem worse than reality. They could not provide the Standard with exact numbers about staff at Hewell but said the Howard League had compared the headcount of all officer grades in 2010 with the full-time equivalent of only Band 3 and officer specialists in 2014.
The charity claims the drop has coincided with a ‘deepening prison overcrowding crisis’ and an ‘alarming’ rise in the number of self-inflicted deaths in custody.
Chief executive Frances Crook said: “The prison system is in crisis and these figures reveal why. While the prison population has grown, officer numbers have been cut without any thought for the consequences.”
“The only solution to this crisis is one that successive governments have ducked. There are many people in custody who have not committed serious or violent offences and it is time for a hard look at who we send to prison and why. We must reduce the prison population.”
Prisons Minister Andrew Selous said: “It’s beyond me why the Howard League go out of their way to deliberately mislead the public on the state of our prisons. They are less overcrowded than they have been for a decade and they are well-run, due to the dedication of the hard-working staff in them. Consistently trying to claim otherwise helps no one.”