Britain's prison workers have blamed the latest inmate riot in the Midlands on government cuts, as MPs debate the "crisis" in British jails.
"I wake up every day waiting for one of my members to be murdered in their place of work," said PJ McParlin, the national chairman of the union for Prison, Correctional & Secure Psychiatric workers.
On Sunday an inmate cut the face of a guard at HMP Stocken prison near Peterborough, sparking a riot of 60 prisoners who began lighting fires and causing "substantial damage to the wing". A special "tornado" riot squad was called in as well as the fire brigade and other police.
"The spike in violence and the cuts are inextricably linked," said McParlin. "Staff are just running around and chasing their tails."
More than 7,000 jobs and £900m have been cut from the correctional operating budget since 2010 as a privation push sweeps the UK.
"That's a huge amount on a budget of £7bn to £6bn," McParlin said of the cuts, noting that in 2013 alone 2,500 prison staff lost their jobs.
In March it was reported that 700 probation officers would lose their jobs this year. Sodexo, the UK's largest private probation services company, intends to cut these jobs and replace them with machines where former prisoners can check in.
The operations of entire prisons has been turned over to companies such as Sodexo, Serco, and G4S. Some 18 prisons have been closed since 2010, while 14% of the UK's correctional services have been privatised.
But the cuts have led to overcrowding, rising rates of violence, and reoffending, according to MPs as they debated a March bi-partisan report on the state of UK prisons on Wednesday (17 June).
The lawmakers said overcrowding and changes to the parole system are having a direct impact on reoffending rates, the safety of prison guards, and the general public as they debated what's to be done.
The system is in "total and utter chaos," said Ian Lavery, Labour MP for Wansbeck, Northumberland, calling Sodexo's operation of the troubled HMP Northumberland prison "a merrygoround of finance" where "this company can make a fortune from failure."
Since 2012, the HM Inspectorate of Prisons has tracked "a 38% rise in self-inflicted deaths, a 9% rise in self-harm, a 7% rise in assaults, and 100% rise in incidents of concerted indiscipline," the report said.
"On leaving prison, 50,000 prisoners released didn't get support in post-release supervision," said Rachael Maskell, Labour MP for York Central. She pointed to the story of a woman who ended up on the streets as soon as she left jail.
The public is also threatened by increasing cases of recidivism, Maskell said, citing that 45.2% of adults and 32% of young offenders are now re-offending.
Fewer staff means that prisoners can't go to the gym, can't take showers, and definitely can't get through rehabilitation programs, said McParlin, who added: "They're having two to three in a cell designed for one. They're eating and defecating in that cell. That would cause frustration."
Every day there are up to 9 assaults on prison staff, McParlin said, noting a 40% increase in serious assaults.
Overcrowding is costing the government too. Some 200 prison staff are travelling every day from the north to the south east to cover shifts due to the lack of staff, McParlin said — adding up to £60m in bonus schemes and hotel stays.
"It's ludicrous. They need to decide whether they want to warehouse people," he said. "If they want to play at rehabilitation and skill people, they need to realise it's an investment and that they need to protect the public."