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Prison Service: Emergencies

Volume 475: debated on Tuesday 6 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what operational emergencies were declared by each prison in each of the last 12 months; and what the date of each was. (202367)

An operational emergency is determined and may be declared locally by a prison governor in response to specific operational circumstances arising in an individual establishment or nationally by the director-general or chief operating officer of the National Offender Management Service (formerly DG and DDG of HM Prison Service) in response to wider concerns within the service.

There have been four occurrences when a clear operational emergency has been declared by the DG/COO under these procedures in the last 12 months. Three of these involved bringing into immediate use additional places at individual establishments. One was a national issue, to facilitate immediate staffing of court cells.

A central record of operational emergencies declared locally is not maintained and an exercise to collate these figures would be at disproportionate cost.

Date

Establishment

Reason for operational emergency

May 2007

National

Population pressures required the immediate staffing of court cells

June 2007

Blakenhurst

Population pressures exacerbated by flooding in the area required the immediate use of additional overcrowding places

April 2008

Bullingdon

Population pressures required the immediate use of additional overcrowding places

Cardiff

Population pressures required the immediate use of additional overcrowding places

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what his Department’s definition of operational emergency is in relation to prisons and young offender institutions; and what such operational emergencies have taken place in (a) the Prison Service and (b) privately-managed prisons in each of the last 36 months. (202510)

The specific circumstances constituting an operational emergency within HMPS are not explicitly defined.

An operational emergency is determined and may be declared locally by a prison governor in response to specific operational circumstances arising in an individual establishment or nationally by the director-general or chief operating officer of the National Offender Management Service (formerly DG and DDG of HM Prison Service) in response to wider concerns within the service.

Within the terms of the Joint Industrial Relations Procedural Agreement (in place with the Prison Officers Association) and the Voluntary Agreement in place with the Prison Governors Association) an operational emergency is specifically defined in the following terms:

“An occasion where staff will be required to act contrary to the terms of an agreement whether national or local, when events make such action necessary having been identified as a clear operational emergency. Management will aim to give as much notice as possible to the POA and such a situation can only be designated by the DG or DDG who will state the reasons for so doing in writing.”

There have been 10 recorded occasions when a clear operational emergency has been declared by the DG/DDG under these procedures in the last 36 months. Eight of these involved bringing into immediate use additional accommodation or places at individual establishments. Two were national issues, one requiring immediate implementation of Prison Service Instruction 17/07—Maximising occupancy in the open estate, and one to facilitate immediate staffing of court cells.

A central record of operational emergencies declared locally is not maintained and an exercise to collate these figures would be at disproportionate cost.