Janet Sarsfield, a rep in Community’s justice sector, spoke at the 150th TUC Congress in Manchester this week, highlighting the action required to create a safer justice sector.
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“It is totally unacceptable that anyone, wherever they work, should suffer physical abuse, or the fear of that abuse, just for making a living for themselves and their families. I want you to imagine going to work knowing there’s a chance you will leave emotionally drained, battered and bruised. Imagine having a job where there’s a high chance of being assaulted. Imagine being told that these risks are just part of your job.
“That’s what life can be like for me and all too many of my colleagues who work in the justice sector. When I joined this sector, I of course knew about the risks. But I believed that my employer, and failing that, the government, would protect me.
“Yet, since I joined the sector things have got worse. With New Psychoactive Substances streaming into our prisons, I know many of my colleagues are facing increasing risks at work. In the last year alone assaults on prison staff have gone up 26 per cent. That’s a staggering 24 assaults every day.
“The sad thing is we know how to make the justice sector safer. We know that we need more staff that are better-trained to handle difficult situations, and difficult prisoners. We know that if we want to stop the exodus of experienced people leaving our profession then prison officers and those of us working alongside them need better pay and more respect for the job they do. We know that urgent action and more funding is needed to tackle New Psychoactive Substances in our prisons.
“Yet the only prisons that get anywhere near the necessary funding and support are those that are already in terrible conditions. Congress, I can tell you now that this government’s approach of investing £30 million pounds in the worst ten prisons in the country is like putting a plaster on a bullet wound and hoping for the best.
“When it comes to the justice sector, it’s time this government started being more proactive and less reactive. We want to work with the government and our employers to achieve that.
“For a Safer Justice Sector, for me and my colleagues, please support.”