THE public will be endangered by the move to cluster the Island's three prisons, the Prison Officers Association (POA) claims.
The union says combining Parkhurst, Albany and Camp Hill as the renamed HMP Isle of Wight from today (Wednesday) is simply an exercise to save money and reduce staff.
However, HMP Isle of Wight governor Barry Greenberry said the claims were unnecessarily alarmist and the clustering would provide a better service in protecting the public.
POA chairman Colin Moses said members had been trying to resolve disputes through industrial relations, although no one was listening to their concerns.
He also suggested prison managers were disregarding health and safety legislation.
“The three prisons hold 1,700 prisoners and the changes will significantly affect the security and custody of the estate and, in the long term, I can only see real problems for the service,” Mr Moses said.
But Mr Greenberry said there was a sense of relief now the change had been made.
“There are no less officers than before and the mood around the place is to focus on the job,” he said.
The three sites remain as separate facilities, although services will now be shared between them.
The Ministry of Justice defended the move, pointing to the successful clustering of prisons in the Isle of Sheppey.
“The prison service has a responsibility to protect the public and we believe the move will improve efficiency and effectiveness, while reducing costs by £1 million a year.
“Clustering is a sensible way of managing prisons to achieve better economies,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice.