PRISON officers at HMP Isle of Wight who have staged a mass walkout today (Friday) warned the prison was massively understaffed and unsafe.

They told the County Press this morning that repeated staff cuts had put both staff and prisoners at risk.

UPDATED 09:43: More than 100 prison officers and support staff from the Parkhurst and Albany sites have joined the demonstration.

They said staffing levels had been decimated, following the government’s savage austerity cuts to the public sector.

Violent assaults against staff have rocketed as a result, as have the number of prisoners self-harming.

Parkhurst Prison Officers' Association chair Glen Holmes said staff had been subjected to brutal assaults.

“Over the last three years, violent assaults have gone up by 100 per cent,” he said.

“Staff have had broken jaws and cheekbones. They’ve been stabbed. They’ve had urine and faeces thrown over them.

“But nothing is done. The police aren’t interested. The governors aren’t interested.”

At certain times, Mr Holmes said there was just one member of staff working on a wing with between 70 and 133 prisoners.

“It’s not safe for us to do our jobs,” he said.

Parkhurst POA secretary Gary Sandison said: “This a national day of protest about health and safety in our prisons.  

“HM Prison and Probation Service said we needed 60 more staff for the prison to be run safely.

“Two years ago there was a commitment to provide extra staff. Those staff have not materialised.

“There have been budget cuts year on year. In reality, we are losing more staff than we are retaining and recruiting.

“Its not safe for us, and it’s not safe for the prisoners.”

During today’s walkout, the prison will be run on a skeleton staff. Prisoners will still receive healthcare and meals.

Mr Sandison told the County Press this morning (Friday) POA officers would meet with the governor, Doug Graham, but would only return to work if directed to do so by union bosses.

The national protest follows the news an urgent notification notice has been issued at HMP Bedford, following what the POA described as 'a catalogue of failure.'

It said the government had failed to provide safe prisons.

POA General Secretary Steve Gillan, said: "The POA has engaged with the employer and ministers in an attempt to resolve issues but they are playing lip service to the health and safety of my members, their human rights, that of other workers in prisons and of course, prisoners in our care."

UPDATED 10:21: The Isle of Wight Labour Party has expressed 'deep concern' that prison officers have been forced to walk out over extraordinary levels of violence and poor conditions at HMP Isle of Wight and other prisons across the UK.

Chair Julian Critchley said: “Our prison officers here on the Isle of Wight are dedicated public servants. They are resilient and robust, and they have to be in order to do their job. 

"So when those good people are telling us that there is a serious and dangerous problem in our prisons, and that they are unsafe as a result, then we should all listen. 

"Cuts to prison budgets by this Conservative Government have created this unprecedented crisis. A Labour government would recruit 3,000 more prison officers and lift the public sector pay cap to help increase recruitment and retention of prison and probation officers."