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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Latest prison/probation staffing news

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The number of prison officers fell by over 2000 last year while there are slightly more probation officers in the National Probation Service.

The number of prison officers keeps falling

The latest (published 4 August 2016) NOMS workforce statistics bulletin makes for (predictably) depressing reading.

As at 30 June 2016, civil service employment in NOMS was 43,210 staff in post on a full time equivalent (FTE) basis. This consists of:

  • 31,091 FTE in Public Sector Prisons (72.0% of NOMS Staff)
  • 8,756 FTE in National Probation Service (20.3% of NOMS Staff)
  • 3,364 FTE in NOMS HQ and Area Services (7.8% NOMS Staff)

Overall, there was an reduction of 319 FTE staff in post compared to March 2016 (0.7% reduction).

A the end of June this year, there were 18,090 band 3 to 5 prison officers, a reduction of 237 (1.3%) on the quarter and 303 (1.6%) over the last 12 months.

Although NOMS is trying hard to recruit prison officers; it is struggling:

  • 1,577 new band 3 to 5 prison officers were appointed in the 12 months to 30 June 2016. 1,410 of these were new recruits and 167 were existing NOMS staff who have re-graded into the officer role.
  • BUT, there were 3,678 leavers in the 12-months to 30 June 2016 compared to 3,845 in the previous 12 months. Of the leavers, 1,727 resigned (47% of all leavers), 759 retired (21% of all leavers) and 669 were dismissed (18%).

This means a net loss of 2,101 prison officers in the last year.

The bulletin reports that across all prison establishments there is a shortfall to Benchmark staffing levels of 746 (4.0%) amongst band 3 to 5 Officers and of 554 (10.4%) among Operational Support Grades.

The chart below compares prison officer recruits against leavers since 2010:

prison officers August 2016

Number of probation officers rises

The number of probation officers in the National Probation Service increased by 101 (3.1%) on the quarter and 153 (4.7%) over the last 12 months to a total of 3,372.

NOMS does not record the number of probation staff employed by private Community Rehabilitation Companies although this has certainly dropped markedly with most of the 21 CRCs making staff cuts owing to very tightly priced contracts and a reduction in the number of offenders they are supervising (compared with levels predicted when the Transforming Rehabilitation competition was run).


These figures need to be understood in the context of a large fall in NOMS staff. Since 31 March 2010, there has been a 23% fall in the number of staff employed by NOMS (equivalent to 10,321 individuals); a figure which does NOT include staff transferred out of NOMS into the 21 CRCs.


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All Probation Posts are sponsored by Unilink

With over 20 years’ experience in the criminal justice sector, Unilink is a world leader in probation and community corrections software applications, as well as prisoner self-service, prisoner/case management and prisoner communications. Unilink’s integrated suite of products provide a complete digital solution enabling efficient running of prisons and probation. Underpinned by biometrics it integrates seamlessly to deliver security, efficiency and value – while being proven to help rehabilitate prisoners.

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