Thursday, 17 November 2016


The Justice Secretary insists she is not "out of her depth" ahead of talks with union officials about the prisons "meltdown".


Justice secretary Liz Truss MP on prison strikes
Video:Justice Secretary Liz Truss answers claims she is 'out of her depth'
Justice Secretary Liz Truss has admitted there are "very serious issues" with the level of violence in UK prisons, but insists she is not out of her depth
Ahead of talks with the prison officers' union, which says the system is in "meltdown", she told Sky News that prisons needed to be safer but that plans to deal with the problem were working.
She claimed that half the additional prison officers needed in the UK's 10 most challenging prisons had already been recruited, as well as extra measures to clamp down on drug use.

Footage filmed inside HMP Bedford
Video:Footage of a riot filmed inside HMP Bedford
The Justice Secretary refused to be drawn when challenged on whether she was out of her depth on dealing with issue, but insisted: "I am getting to sorting out this problem and ever since I was appointed in July I've been clear prison safety is my number one priority.
"We've just rolled out the drug tests, we're getting the new staff in. We're getting the money for the 10 most challenging prisons."
Ms Truss is due to talk to prison officers after thousands were forced to return to work following a walk-out over health and safety concerns.
The Justice Secretary said: "We have got serious issues with the levels of violence in our prisons.
"What I'm doing about that is, first of all cracking down on drugs and mobile phones - we have introduced new testing for psychoactive substances which we have rolled out across the prison estate.

Members of the prison service gather outside HMP Liverpool on November 15, 2016 after prison officers stopped work in protest over conditions.
Image Caption:Members of the prison service protest outside HMP Liverpool
"We are also recruiting more staff to make sure we make our prisons safer."
Ms Truss's meeting with the Prison Officers Association (POA) will take place later after 10,000 workers went on strike on Tuesday over concerns about violence and "chronic staff shortages".
They were forced back to work by the High Court because it is illegal for prison officers in England and Wales to strike.
The action followed a number of high-profile incidents at prisons, including a riot at HMP Bedford, and a jail-break and stabbing at Pentonville in north London.

The inside of Pentonville Prison in north London
Image Caption:There has been a stabbing and jail-break at Pentonville Prison
On Tuesday, Facebook pictures also emerged of prisoners enjoying steaks, fish and chips, vodka and drugs at HMP Guys Marsh in Dorset.
The shadow justice secretary, Richard Burgon, has said that Ms Truss had "lost control" of the prisons situation.