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South Yorkshire prison officers set to receive ‘pepper spray’ to combat violence

HMP Doncaster
HMP Doncaster

South Yorkshire prison officers are set to be given synthetic pepper spray to combat violence behind bars following a successful trial in other jails.

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The use of PAVA spray, which incapacitates those it is used on, has been trialled in four prisons and is to be rolled out at all jails which house male prisoners, prisons minister Rory Stewart has said.

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The announcement comes ahead of a speech by Andrea Albutt, the president of the Prison Governors Association (PGA), in which she is expected to accuse the Government of failing to respond quickly enough to a jail safety crisis.

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Speaking to The Sun, Mr Stewart said trials of the PAVA spray had already shown positive results, without officers needing to use the spray.

"The mere fact that an officer is wearing the canister on their belt acts as a deterrent and can prevent incidents getting out of hand,” he said.

He added that the decision to arm prison officers with the spray had come following ‘serious thought,’ but that safer prisons ‘are vital for all of us’.

He said: "Our prison officers are doing one of the most important and heroic jobs in our society. We must give them the means to do their job."

The prisons system has been under intense scrutiny after levels of violence, self-harm and drug use behind bars surged.

At the PGA's annual conference today, Ms Albutt will paint a bleak picture of the state of jails, pointing to ‘horrendous’ quarterly statistics on violence.

She is expected to say: "We have crumbling prisons and an inability to give a safe, decent and secure regime to large numbers of men and women in our care due to lack of staff, not fit for purpose contracts and a much more violent, disrespectful, gang and drug affiliated population."