Preston prison officers to be armed with spray for self-defence

HMP Preston
HMP Preston
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Prison officers in Preston are to be equipped with canisters of an incapacitant substance similar to pepper spray in order to defend themselves against inmates.

HMP Preston (pictured) is one of four prisons across the country set to take part in a trial, according to the Ministry of Justice.

The move comes as the government announces a £3m investment to improve safety in prisons across the country.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) revealed it is investing £2m in 5,600 body cameras for prison officers, meaning every prison officer across England and Wales will have access to the devices.

An extra £1m is being invested in “police-style” handcuffs and restraints to reduce the need for staff to use physical holds to control aggressive prisoners.

HMP Wealstun, HMP Risley, and HMP Hull will join HMP Preston trialling the use of incapacitant spray.

Prisons minister Sam Gyimah said the increased security measures will ensure officers have the right tools for the job.

“I am absolutely determined to tackle head-on the issues that undermine the safety and security of our prisons and to ensure our dedicated officers have the tools they need to do the job,” he said. “That is why we have introduced a range of measures to boost security - bringing 300 sniffer dogs trained in detecting psychoactive substances and putting in place technology to block mobile phones.

“This latest investment underlines our commitment to transform our prisons into places of safety and should send a clear message to those intent on thwarting our efforts to make progress that we will do everything in our power to stop them.”

The MoJ said the cameras “will act as a visible deterrent against violence” and assist in prosecutions against those who commit crimes in jails.

The move comes after trials in 22 establishments and the large-scale deployment of body-worn cameras to more than 22,000 Metropolitan Police officers in October last year.

It also follows a recruitment drive launched by the Government in response to surging levels of violence and self-harm in prisons across the country.

The Government recently revealed it is more than halfway towards its target to bring in 2,500 additional prison officers by the end of next year.