Stressed-out prison staff at HMP Perth missed over 1100 days of work last year because as union officials warn of a “perfect storm” in prisons.
Overcrowding and assaults on staff have found an increasing number of employees taking sick leave brought on by stress with the Prison Officers Association (POA) claiming that HMP Perth is currently running at 10% over capacity.
In 2018 prison employees in Perth missed 1130 days of work with stress as 29 staff members took leave for an average of 39 days according to figures obtained through a Freedom Of Information request.
This is a stark rise from 2016 and 2017 where prison employees where absent due to stress for 399 and 445 days respectively.
Attacks on prison staff have also continued to rise at HMP Perth over the past three years with 22 incidents reported in 2o18 compared to 11 in 2017 and seven in 2016, a second Freedom of Information request showed.
Andy Hogg, assistant general secretary of POA Scotland, said: “Many Scottish prisons are now facing significant levels of overcrowding with Perth Prison holding more than 10% beyond their available spaces.
“Overcrowding is a scourge and often leads to greater levels of indiscipline amongst the prisoner group.
“But coupled with the need to manage increasing levels of prisoners under the influence of psychoactive substances, dealing with prisoner mental health issues and staff not feeling supported, all contribute to an ever stressful and hostile environment where assaults on staff are more likely and increasing absence inevitable.
“Staff morale is at rock bottom and there needs to be something done to address the growing anger and discontent amongst our members.
“Immediately addressing low pay and an unrealistic retirement age along with a fundamental review on how Scottish prison officers are rewarded and remunerated in future would help stave off what is fast becoming a perfect storm in our prisons.”
The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) said it is aware of the rise in absences due to stress and also condemned the attacks on their staff members which they believed to be the result of a growing prison population.
Tom Fox, head of corporate affairs at SPS, said: “One attack is one too many and we do not tolerate that.
“The number of people with stress went up last year and the number of working days lost also went up. Certainly we’re aware of the rise and we’re working with our partners.”
However Mr Fox said he didn’t believe there was a “direct correlation” between the rise in absences through stress and the rise in attacks.