Isle of Wight prison officers protesting against prison closures in Westminster. Picture by Ben Cooper.
PRISON officers from the Isle of Wight joined a protest in Westminster today (Wednesday), calling on the government to re-think closure plans that include shutting Camp Hill.
Eight Island officers took part in the 100-strong demonstration against plans to close prisons — putting 400 jobs on the Isle of Wight at risk — across the country.
Interviews with prison officers at all the Island’s jails have been completed and they will learn on Friday next week if they still have a job.
The prison service will consider voluntary redundancies and compulsory relocations to other prisons, followed by consideration of compulsory redundancies.
Ben Cooper, Camp Hill Prison Officers Association (POA) branch secretary, said there was a great deal of uncertainty.
"The prison will close on March 31 and we still don't know what will happen. Some officers are willing to commute or move, but the prison service will not meet their expenses in full so they might not be able to afford it.
"It's the type of worry that can break up families, especially at such short notice, but the prison service does not seem to care."
Mr Cooper said the impact of the closure on the Island economy would be potentially devastating if Albany and Parkhurst were also closed. "It's an £8m wage bill that's being removed from the economy, and some £30m if all three prisons close. Our fear is that once they take one Island prison, they will come back for the others," he said.
The POA has called on MP Andrew Turner to back the Island's prison officers and criticised his failure to sign an early day motion in parliament, which raises concerns about the prison closures.
Mr Cooper also criticised government plans to replace prisons with private sector-run 'titan prisons' capable of holding up to 2,000 prisoners.
"Titan prisons create a gang culture, a culture of criminality. They are about warehousing prisoners as cheaply as possible at the expense of their safety and that of the public, who will suffer when hardened prisoners are released," he said.