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Prisons: Staff

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 281833, tabled on 24 July 2019

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effect of (a) prison violence and (b) exposure to new psychoactive substances on the (i) physical and (ii) mental health of prison staff.

Answered on

3 September 2019

The physical, emotional and social wellbeing of our staff is paramount. All HMPPS staff have access to an occupational health service, and employee assistance programme. This includes 24-hour, 365 days a year access to signposting and counselling, and trauma support services.

Violence against our hard-working staff will never be tolerated. The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act came into force in November and doubled sentences for those who attack emergency workers, including prison officers. Post-incident care teams, occupational health support, counselling and clinical treatment are available for those who experience trauma while doing their jobs.

We are investing £100 million investment to boost security and combat crime in prisons. Tough airport-style security, including x-ray scanners and metal detectors, will be put into prisons across the estate to clamp down on the drugs, weapons and mobile phones that fuel violence – increasing the risk to our officers and hindering rehabilitation.

Psychoactive substances have presented a particular challenge and in September 2016, we became the first prison service in the world to introduce innovative mandatory drug tests for these substances, a significant step in tackling the supply and use of them.

Following reports from staff of the effects of secondary inhalation Her Majesty's Prison & Probation Service commenced work with unions, independent scientists and clinicians to assess the impact of reported secondary exposure to psychoactive substances. A programme of voluntary post-exposure biological testing of staff is now being expanded and will enable an assessment of the biological effects on staff to be made.

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