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Prison staff put at risk as inmates' time in cells increases.

CONVICTS at Welsh prisons are spending longer locked in their cells, with warnings of increased assaults on staff and more reoffending as a result.

The amount of time prisoners at Usk/Prescoed spend in their cells jumped by 20% between 2007-08 and 2009-10, according to Ministry of Justice figures, equivalent to an average of an extra two hours a day, taking the amount of time to 12.1 hours a day.

Time in cells had increased by 5% at Swansea and the privately managed Parc prison in Bridgend - equivalent to an average of an extra 45mins a day - with prisoners spending 15.7 hours and 14.8 hours in their cells respectively.

Time in cells has remained consistent over the period at Cardiff at 15.9 hours a day.

Joe Simpson, assistant secretary to the POA (Prison Officers' Association), said the increases were down to budget cuts, with the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) deciding to cut out-of-cell time in order to deliver the savings.

He said: "Normally the prisoners would be out on a Friday afternoon on work and out on Friday night on association, when they can make phone calls, have showers etc.

"Because of the budget cuts they don't go to work on a Friday and they have association in the afternoon and on Friday night they are often locked up from 5.30pm.

"The impact we have seen, and it was reported by Anne Owers, chief inspector of prisons, was the amount of assaults against staff and prisoners has increased on a Monday because of the amount of time prisoners spend in their cells over the weekend."

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said the reduction in time out of cells was cutting the opportunity for prisoners to engage in activities aimed at rehabilitating them.

She said: "Our overcrowded prisons increasingly resemble warehouses in which people are stacked rather than places of effective rehabilitation. With no, or limited, opportunities for work, education and training, many people are leaving prison ill-equipped to cope on the outside and at risk of returning to crime."

A Prison Service spokesperson, also commenting on behalf of G4S which runs Parc prison, said: "Time in and out of cell will vary for individual prisoners within a prison, as well as between different types of prison.

Time spent out of cell can be linked to earned privileges."
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 7, 2011
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