By Reanna Smith
Prison officers at Walton Prison in Liverpool have gone on strike today (February 21), after a fellow member of staff was sacked for using force on an inmate.
Officers are striking after the “unjust” dismissal due to concerns over health and safety, as violence has been rising at the prison.
It’s claimed the sacked member of staff, who had worked as a prison officer for 26 years, was acting in self-defence and that police had cleared him of any wrongdoing.
Leaders of the Police Officers Association said: “Prison Officers face ever-increasing levels of violence, due to the unprecedented levels of drugs and debt within the prison population and Liverpool is a high-risk prison.
“Prison Officers are taught to use Control and Restraint (C&R) to manage the prison population. As part of the training they are taught to use a pre-emptive strike if they feel their personal safety, that of a colleague or a prisoner is at risk.
“The Officer used this approved method and was unjustly sacked.
“Prison Officers now fear they will lose their jobs if they use force and will often allow prisoners to assault them rather than risk their employment.”
The Ministry of Justice has responded to the strike.
A spokesperson said: “It is irresponsible for the POA to encourage its members to take this unlawful action, which puts the safety of staff and prisoners at risk.
“We are urgently seeking an injunction from the courts, requiring the POA to cease its action and staff to comply with the Governor’s directions to return to work.
“Contingency plans have been enacted and additional staff have been deployed to Liverpool. The prison is secure and there is no risk to the wider public.
“Prison officers have the right to use proportionate pre-emptive force, and related disciplinary investigations only take place where there are concerns that force could have been excessive and potentially unlawful.”
Many have taken to social media to express their support for the strike.
Solidarity with Walton prison staff walking out in support of their unjustly sacked colleague.
— Danny (@dannyhigham3) February 21, 2019
Solidarity to all the staff at HMP Liverpool who are on strike today. https://t.co/CMAjmUryya
— Carolyn Harris (@carolynharris24) February 21, 2019
Solidarity to POA members at HMP Liverpool today. Napo fully supports you!
— Tania Bassett (@taniabassett) February 21, 2019
Solidarity with collegues at HMP Liverpool. Well done for taking a stand.
— Jon Northam (@NorthamJon) February 21, 2019
But others disagreed and felt use of force should not be allowed and would add to the prisons issues.
Conditions in HMP Liverpool are appalling & giving prison officers the authorisation to use physical violence against prisoners without repercussion will do absolutely nothing to address eg. unsanitary living conditions, poor food, lack of support that prisoners face.
— Natalie James (@nah__talia) February 21, 2019
CN PRISON VIOLENCE
Last year, it was reported that prisoners in HMP Liverpool live in filth, amongst rats and cockroaches. Deaths in the prison are an issue. Now guards want to be able to use pre-emptive force against inmates. https://t.co/EgaMqokOtQ
— regular catten. (@hexpositivee) February 21, 2019
this is horrifying, widespread use of physical violence against prisoners is a serious issue at liverpool prison that has gone unaddressed for a while, that staff are punishing for the official right to use physical violence without repercussion is absolutely vile https://t.co/nY0V8Pfuyv
— лжедмитрий (@false_dmitry) February 21, 2019