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Inquiry launched into staffing issues in the prison system

25 November 2022

The Justice Committee has launched a new inquiry to investigate workforce pressures in the prison system.

The number of staff working in the key officer roles in the prison system has fallen significantly in recent years. In the last 12 months, there has been a fall of 600 staff in prison officer and custodial manager roles. The Prison and Probation Service has introduced initiatives to improve support for new employees and aid development. However, despite these efforts and improved pay the numbers leaving the service are increasing. Days lost through sickness have also risen significantly in the last five years.

The Justice Committee’s inquiry will examine why staff are leaving the prison service and the impact this has on the ability to provide a safe and effective prison regime. It will examine the impact of measures to improve pay, conditions and support for prison staff and ask what more can be done to improve recruitment and retention.

Chair's comments

Launching the inquiry, Chair of the Justice Committee Sir Bob Neill said:

“Understaffing in the prison system has serious consequences for prisoners and prison officers alike. Without sufficient staff their safety is at risk. It also limits the ability to provide the vital services that support the physical and mental health of inmates, and prepares them for release.

We have launched this inquiry to understand what can be done to reverse the exodus of staff from the prison service. It will look at why so many are seeking employment opportunities elsewhere and what measures can be put in place to encourage them to stay. It will also examine the impact of recently implemented initiatives designed to increase support for prison officers and operational support grade staff.”

Terms of reference 

The Justice Committee invites interested groups and individuals to provide written submissions of up to 1,500 words to inform their work. Submissions should address some or all of the questions set out below. The deadline for submissions is Friday 6 January.

Submit evidence here.

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 difficulties in recruiting and retaining OSGs and prison officers have on 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 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 Prisons Strategy White Paper in respect of the operational workforce?


Further information

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