Rise in attacks on officers at Norwich Prison

PUBLISHED: 17:28 03 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:28 03 August 2018

Norwich Prison prison officer Steve Searby. Photo : Steve Adams

Norwich Prison prison officer Steve Searby. Photo : Steve Adams

Copyright Archant Norfolk 2015

Attacks on staff at HMP Norwich Prison have “risen dramatically” over the past couple of years, according to a leading prison officer.

In the past six weeks there have been 17 attacks on prison staff at the Knox Road jail.

That is according to Steve Searby, chairman of the Prison Officers Association (POA) at Norwich Prison.

He said: “The majority of them have been assaults, punches to the face.”

Mr Searby revealed some staff have had improvised weapons used on them during the attacks which left at least two needing hospital treatment.

Mr Searby said nationally assaults on prison officers were up by 233pc since 2010.

And while he accepted problems in Norwich were below the national average, he insisted there was still an issue at Norwich.

He said: “We’re up to full staffing but we have so many staff off sick.”

Mr Searby said many of those were staff who lacked the experience to enable them to cope with the demands of the job.

He said: “It’s a job that you don’t know if you can do until you actually do it.”

Another problem, according to Mr Searby, was the changes in the type of prisoners coming through the gates.

He said: “We’ve got a lot of county line drug dealers in. They have no fear, no respect.

“The issue is if they have no respect or fear nothing out in the community that’s not going to change when they come to prison, to a certain degree it’s going to make them worse.”

But he added: “We still have control of HMP Norwich however we accept assaults on staff and prisoners on prisoners are rising.”

The comments follow an Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) report in June which found staff shortages and substandard accommodation were compromising safety at the prison.

A prison service spokesperson said: “We have recruited over 3,000 prison officers in the last 18 months to improve safety and help turn offenders’ lives around.

“Norwich prison is already feeling the benefits of this, with an additional 60 officers on landings and a further nine to join them by the end of the summer to give staff the support they need to take the prison forward.

“Assaults on our hardworking staff will never be tolerated. We will always push for the strongest punishment and we’re changing the law so offenders who attack prison officers face even longer behind bars.”

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