Opinion Former Article

PCS: Unions in joint call over prison overcrowding

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) are joining forces to urge the government to act on prison overcrowding at today's European wide action day in Brussels (28 February). The call comes as the prison population in England and Wales has soared to an all-time high of around 82,000.

PCS and RCN will be joining trade unions from 10 European countries at today's demonstration in Brussels, which will see over 400 prison staff including prison officers, administrative and health workers rallying outside the Council of Ministers building, Justus Lipsius from 12-3 pm. The 'No to Prison Overcrowding' rally organised by the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) will coincide with a meeting of the EU Council of Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs.

The European wide action comes as Europe's prison population tops 600,000 with the majority of prisons facing overcrowding problems. In England and Wales two thirds of prisons are overcrowded causing:

§ Disruption to re-offending programmes.
§ An increase in deaths in custody.
§ Basic standards of human dignity to be compromised, with over 12,000 prisoners being held two to a cell in cells designed for one.
§ Prisoners to be transported all over the country in the search for spaces, costing the taxpayer millions in transportation, causing delays to the criminal justice system, and jeopardising family relationships.

Dr Peter Carter, RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive said: "Prison nurses are under enormous pressure due to prison overcrowding. We urge the Government to take action to combat this European wide problem of prison overcrowding.

"Our members are telling us that time constraints and high stress are impacting on their ability to fully assess prisoners' needs and provide quality care and treatment - it's simply unacceptable that they're put in this predicament."

Commenting, Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: "Prison overcrowding undermines the work our members do in ensuring the smooth running of prisons and the important work in rehabilitating offenders. The government needs to act on prison overcrowding by recognising that it cannot simply build its way out of the problem and that rehabilitation and tackling re-offending is key in addressing the problem."

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information please contact PCS national press officer, Alex Flynn on 020 7801 2820 or 07833 978216 or the RCN media office on 0207 647 3633, press.office@rcn.org.uk or visit http://www.rcn.org.uk/news/mediacentre.php

2. PCS, the Public and Commercial Services Union is the union representing civil and public servants in central government. It has 290,000 members in 173 departments and agencies. It also represents workers in parts of government transferred to the private sector. PCS is the UK's sixth largest union and is affiliated to the TUC. The general secretary is Mark Serwotka and the president is Janice Godrich.

3. PCS represents over 4,800 members in Her Majesty's Prison Service in institutions across the country from administration officers and Governors to Instructional Officers.

4. Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is the voice of nursing across the UK and is the largest professional union of nursing staff in the world. The RCN promotes the interest of nurses and patients on a wide range of issues and helps shape healthcare policy by working closely with the UK Government and other national and international institutions, trade unions, professional bodies and voluntary organisations.

5. EPSU is the European Federation of Public Service Unions. It is the largest federation of the ETUC. 8 million public service workers from over 200 trade unions are members. They organise workers in the energy, water and waste sectors, health and social services and local and national administration.

6. A full EPSU briefing on prison overcrowding can be accessed at http://www.epsu.org/a/3551 (including causes, consequences, solutions and statistics on prison overcrowding).

7. The EPSU Action Plan on Prisons is available at:http://www.epsu.org/a/3180

Alex Flynn
National Press Officer
Public and Commercial Services Union
160 Falcon Rd
London SW11 2LN

Direct line: 020 7801 2747
Mobile: 07833 978 216
Fax: 020 7924 1847
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