Officers from HMP Lewes and Ford Open Prison are joining colleagues from across the country in holding protest meetings over what they call ‘unprecedented levels of violence’ and safety concerns for both staff and prisoners, says the Prison Officers’ Association (POA).

The POA is calling for action today (Friday) ‘until instructed otherwise’.

Prison officers outside Lewes Prison today (Friday)

Prisons Minister Rory Stewart said:

“Prison officers do vital and important work and we urge them to return to their duty stations, in line with their obligations to the law and the prison service.

“It’s irresponsible for the POA to encourage their members to take this illegal action. We are deploying our contingency plans but, by not turning up for work, these prison officers are putting their fellow staff and inmates at risk.

“Yesterday we doubled the prison sentence for anyone who assaults prison officers. We’ve also increased pay, provided tools such as body-worn cameras to increase security on the landings, and are investing £40m to improve the estate and tackle the drugs problem which is fuelling much of the violence. And we’ve now got 3,500 new officers to help ease the burden.

“We are taking the action that needs to be taken.”

**Update**

Action has now been called off and staff returned to work at around 1pm.