A high-security prison would see its most dangerous prisoners transferred to other prisons as staff shortages have reached critical levels.
HMP Woodhill, in Milton Keynes, is one of only eight prisons in the country that can house Grade A men – considered to pose the greatest risk to the public or of escape.
The Sunday Telegraph has reported that the HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) is considering removing all Category A prisoners from prison due to a lack of experienced prison officers who can keep order.
Two reports from HM Inspectorate of Prisons in the past 12 months have highlighted staffing issues at Woodhill. Inspectors found that 40% of staff had less than two years’ experience and were struggling to contain the violence.
According to the Telegraph, Woodhill’s Close Supervision Center (CSC) – a separate unit which detains the most dangerous individuals – would also be emptied of its current residents. A separation center at the prison, which holds men convicted of terrorism offences, would not be affected.
The newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying: ‘All Category A prisoners and all CSC prisoners are being removed from HMP Woodhill. It was marred by severe staff shortages. Their failure to regularly staff the terrorist separation center was recently highlighted in an HMIP report. A security audit revealed so many major issues that this unprecedented step is likely to be taken.
“Personnel barely control the main wings – hence the redeployment of experienced special units personnel. Staff trying to enforce the rules are targeted and end up getting sick. There is a culture of impunity that threatens security.
When Inside Time asked the Justice Department if the claims were true, it declined to answer. Instead, a spokesperson released a statement outlining efforts to recruit and retain staff at Woodhill.
Charlie Taylor, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, described how staffing shortages are affecting prisons in large parts of England, particularly in the South East where the labor market is strong and alternative careers offer better pay and conditions, and in rural areas like Norfolk and Cumbria where the pool of potential recruits is small.
According to a prison estate register released by HMPPS in August, Woodhill is one of only eight prisons in England and Wales that can accommodate Category A prisoners. The others are Belmarsh, Frankland, Full Sutton, Long Lartin , Manchester, Wakefield and Whitemoor.