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Call for Evidence

The prison operational workforce


The prison service is facing pressure within its workforce as the numbers of prison staff leaving is on the increase, resulting in many understaffed prisons. This has raised questions over its ability to run a safe and purposeful regime.

Band 3 to 5 prison officers are the key operational grades in public sector prisons. They consist of band 3 prison officers, band 4 officer specialists, band 4 supervising officers, and band 5 custodial managers. HMPPS’s most recent workforce quarterly statistics show that as of 30 September 2022, there were 21,617 band 3-5 prison officers in post, down more than 600 in the last 12 months.

Despite efforts to increase pay and conditions, the leaving rate is still on the increase, now standing at 17.3% for Band 3-4 officers and 19.2% for Band 2 operational support staff. The latest leaving rates are now higher than pre-pandemic levels and are continuing an upward trend seen from March 2016 to March 2020. Reasons include better pay and conditions elsewhere, including other parts of the public sector, particularly the police. Days lost through sickness have also increased significantly in the last 5 years.

Since April 2022, HMPPS has introduced initiatives to support new colleagues and increase levels of experience. This includes Apprenticeship Coaches, a new mentoring scheme, and a peer-to-peer buddy scheme. Whilst the diversity of prison staff has improved in the last five years, prison staff remain under representative of the prison population.

Please send submissions of no more than 3,000 words through the online portal by 13 January 2023.

Terms of reference

The Committee invites evidence on:

  • Why staff, particularly at the operational support grade (OSG) and prison officer grades, are leaving the prison service?
  • What implications do difficulties in recruiting and retaining OSGs and prison officers have for the ability to provide effective regimes for prisoners?
  • Whether projected staffing levels are sufficient to deal with the forecast prison population in the coming years?
  • What is required to improve recruitment levels, both in terms of the number and quality of candidates?
  • How effective is HMPPS at retaining of OSGs and prison officers, and what more could it do to improve job satisfaction and staff morale?
  • What is required to improve diversity and inclusion in the prison workforce?
  • How effective is the initial training, professional supervision, and continuous professional development provided to prison staff?
  • Whether prison officers have the tools and support they need to carry out their roles effectively?
  • What lessons can public sector prisons learn from those run by the private sector, and vice versa; and what lessons can be learnt from other countries?
  • What progress has the Government made on the commitments made in the Prison White Paper Strategy in respect of prison’s operational workforce?

Important information about making a submission

The Committee cannot publish submissions which refer to ongoing legal cases. Please contact us if you are not sure what this means for you.

Written evidence must address the terms of reference as set out above, but please note that submissions do not have to address every point. Guidance on giving evidence to a select committee of the House of Commons is available here.

In line with the general practice of select committees, the Justice Committee is not able to take up individual cases. If you would like political support or advice you may wish to contact your local Member of Parliament.

The Committee will decide whether to accept each submission. If your submission is accepted by the Committee, it will usually be published online. It will then be available permanently for anyone to view. It can’t be changed or removed. If you have included your name or any personal information in your submission, that will normally be published too. Please consider how much personal information you want or need to share. If you include personal information about other people in your submission, the Committee may decide not to publish it. Your contact details will never be published.

Decisions about publishing evidence anonymously, or about accepting but not publishing evidence, are made by the Committee. If you would like to ask the Committee to accept your submission anonymously (meaning it will be published but without your name), or confidentially (meaning it won't be published at all), you can make this request when you upload your submission.

The Committee has discretion over which submissions it accepts as evidence, and which of those it then publishes on its website. We may anonymise or redact some of your submission if it is published. The Committee may decide to accept evidence on a confidential basis. Confidential submissions remain available to the Committee but are not published or referred to in public. All written evidence will be considered by the Committee, whether or not it is published.

If your evidence raises any safeguarding concerns about you, or other people, then the Committee has a duty to raise these with the appropriate safeguarding authority.

This call for written evidence has now closed.

Go back to The prison operational workforce Inquiry