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Prisons crisis MPs demand to be put in prison

Prison officers back call to put politicians behind bars for shadowing scheme

A GROWING number of MPs are demanding the right to work in Britain’s jails to “shine a spotlight” on the prisons crisis.

The proposed Prison Service Parliamentary Scheme is based on similar programmes for MPs to work alongside emergency services to better understand them.

Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts launched an early day motion this week that calls on ministers to introduce the scheme for MPs to work alongside prison officers.

Some MPs have said they would even be willing to don prison officers’ garb, a source told the Star.

Ms Saville Roberts noted it would provide MPs “with invaluable first-hand knowledge of the challenges faced by prison officers.”

Similar schemes for the police, fire service and armed forces “are popular” with MPs, she said.

Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem, SNP and DUP MPs have already backed the motion.

It calls on the government to launch such a scheme in conjunction with prison officers’ union POA as a “matter of priority.”

POA general secretary Steve Gillan told the Star: “We do it for the police and for the fire brigade, so why not the prison service? We’re a public service too.

“There’s a crisis in our prisons and MPs are making cuts to the prison service yet they have no idea about the challenges prison officers face.

“Whenever we raise issues with ministers they fall on deaf ears, so this scheme might actually enhance MPs’ thinking rather than dismissing our problems out of hand or paying lip service.”

Prisons Minister Rory Stewart agreed the initiative would “be an enormous help” to MPs when it was raised in a Commons debate earlier this month.

In the debate, Ms Saville Roberts said that it could be “very dangerous” for politicians to go into prisons.

But Mr Gillan argued: “I don’t believe for one minute that politicians will be in danger. It will enlighten them to better understand the job.”

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said: “Justice has faced the deepest cuts of any ministry, unleashing a crisis in our prisons as thousands of staff were axed and violence soared.

“All too often the government’s approach to these cuts appears to have been that our prisons are out-of-sight and so out-of-mind.

“This scheme would help shine a spotlight on the prisons crisis the Tories have created and put pressure on the government to end its disastrous policies.”

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