Peter Aldous raises prison officers’ COVID-19 concerns with Justice Secretary

27th April 2020

Peter Aldous raises concerns of local prison officers that social distancing guidelines are not being adhered to and there is a limited amount of PPE available.

 

What steps his Department is taking to tackle covid-19 on the prison estate. [901947]

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We have taken significant and unprecedented action during this very difficult period to save lives and to protect the NHS. We know that further progress is needed if we are to continue to strike a balance between limiting the spread of covid-19 and protecting the public. We have restricted regimes in prisons and minimised inter-prison transfers to reduce the spread of the virus, and we are implementing units to protect the sick, to shield the vulnerable and to cohort new arrivals to reduce risk. There are positive signs that our carefully implemented approach is limiting the impact of this initial phase of the pandemic. The number of cases and deaths is much lower than originally predicted, but we will continue to do everything possible to ensure that that remains the case.

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I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that answer. The feedback that I am receiving from officers working in prisons in Suffolk and Norfolk is that social distancing guidelines are not being adhered to and that there is a limited amount of PPE, with a notable absence of face masks. Can he assure the House that he will work with prison officers and their representatives to address those understandable worries?

My hon. Friend can be assured that my officials work closely with the Prison Officers Association. The restricted regimes we have put in place mean that prisoners are spending more of their time in their cells, to support social distancing. When they are allowed out of their cells—for example, for exercise, association or showering—it is on a rota basis, in small, manageable groups supervised by officers, allowing for social distancing to be maintained. The message to stick to the guidance is being reinforced through gold command as part of the command and control structures that now operate right across our prison estate, and we are reinforcing that message through a range of activity—for example, via posters and prison radio.

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