NOMS workforce March 17 FI
Russell Webster

Russell Webster

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

Prison officer recruitment starting to work

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Prison officer recruitment starting to work but existing staff are leaving at the highest rate ever. Probation recruitment has improved over the last year.

Workforce statistics

The latest (18 May 2017) annual workforce statistics bulletin (still described as those working for NOMS despite its replacement by HMPPS in April) shows the scale of the prison officer shortage problem but also some signs of improvement on the recruitment, if not retention, front. The bulletin provides staffing details on the year up to 31 March 2017.

Although there were only 75 more front line prison officers in post this year compared to March 2016 (and even this number includes the 120 staff from Medway Secure Training Centre who were transferred in from G4S), there were 515 more than the previous quarter; some indication that the MoJ’s latest recruitment drive is having an impact.

The corollary of this is that almost a quarter (24%) of prison officers currently have two years’ experience or less.

Headline findings

The main findings highlighted in the bulletin are:

The scale of ongoing staff shortages is shown by the chart below with 80 prisons having fewer officers than their official benchmark:

Retention remains the main problem with 9.4% frontline prison officers leaving the service in the last year compared to 7.5% the previous year.


There is better news on the probation front.

At 31 March 2017, there were 3,594 FTE probation officers in post, making up 40.7% of the NPS staffing population. This represents an increase of 322 (9.9%) compared to 31 March 2016 but a decrease of 21 (0.6%) since the last quarter.


In order to get the prison service back on an even keel, the increase in recruitment will need to continue over the next couple of years while the retention rate will need to go into reverse to ensure that there are enough experienced staff to run our prisons safely and, hopefully, eventually focus more on rehabilitation.


All prison posts are kindly sponsored by Prison Consultants Limited who offer a complete service from arrest to release for anyone facing prison and their family. Prison Consultants have no editorial influence on the contents of this site.

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