Skip to main content

Half of prison officers do not feel safe at work - “shocking” new survey

23 June 2023

Half of the prison officers in England and Wales do not feel safe at the prisons they work in, a large-scale survey of prison staff by the cross-party parliamentary Justice Committee has revealed.  

Over 80 per cent of the prison officers surveyed say that staff morale is not good, and a large majority do not feel their salaries accurately reflect the responsibilities of their job.

The Justice Committee, which scrutinises the work of the Ministry of Justice on behalf of Parliament, surveyed 6,582 prison staff between 10 February and 6 March 2023. The survey, the first of its type, was advertised internally by the Ministry of Justice and by the prison officers’ trade union, the Prison Officers Association. The results, covering a very wide range of topics, have been collated by the Justice Committee and are presented in 36 slides published today (0900 HRS on Friday, June 23).

The survey’s focus was on operational staff in the prisons of England and Wales who are employed in categories ‘Band 2’ to ‘Band 5’ - the categories which make up most staff. Band 3 – 5 staff are the prison officers who work at the ‘coal face’, dealing directly with prisoners inside jails. The higher the grade, the more responsibility they have. Band 2 staff are in roles that support prison officers with tasks such as gate procedures, censorship of mail and telephones, and reception duties. Full details about those surveyed are in the published results.

The survey was conducted as part of a wider inquiry into the staffing of prisons by the Justice Committee. A full report on that inquiry will be published later this year. For more information about the background to that forthcoming report, please see this section of the Committee website – The prison operational workforce.

Chair comment

The Chair of the Justice Committee, Sir Bob Neill MP (Con, Bromley & Chislehurst), said:

“This is a shocking survey. We’ve known as a committee for some time that there are severe staff shortages in prisons and that many prison officers are unhappy with their lot. They don’t feel they can carry out vital rehabilitation work with prisoners.

“But when I learn from this survey that fully half of our prison staff do not feel safe at work, that is still deeply concerning.

“This position is not acceptable. The government risks failing in its duty of care to prison staff and prisoners alike. We are sitting on a potential time bomb. It must be defused”.

Further information

Image credit: Gabirel Sainhas/UK Parliament