PRISON officers on Portland refused to unlock cells in protest after facing a barrage of assaults from inmates, it is claimed.

The Prison Officers’ Association (POA) has revealed the desperate situation faced by staff at HMP/YOI Portland.

Mark Fairhurst, vice chairman of the national POA, said the staff protest came in light of multiple attacks on officers from prisoners, with incidents occurring every day this week.

Following a branch meeting of the POA, prison officers at Portland decided to take action, Mr Fairhurst said.

He added: “Every day this week there have been staff assaults, they have been spat on and had excrement and urine thrown at them.

“All staff want is troublemakers moved to another prison. Prisons are becoming so violent.”

He said the staff decided they were at imminent risk and so used the law to protect themselves.

Around thirty five staff, all members of the POA, reportedly remained in the visits’ hall refusing to unlock cell doors from around 7.30am to 10am yesterday.

Mr Fairhurst said a senior member of staff spoke to them having had a meeting with the chairman of the POA local branch, Tony Walker, and assured them their concerns would be addressed and their demands met.

Mr Fairhurst said: “They asked for the troublesome prisoners to be transferred out and that is going to happen.”

He added: “The staff working on the segregation units, because of the dangers and risks to their health, will be doing duties with full riot kit on until repairs to the observation panels in the cell doors have been complete.

“They shouldn’t have to take that sort of action to get those concerns addressed. If senior managers are not going to protect our members then the POA will.”    

The Prison Officers’ Association released a statement after the resolution of the incident, which said: “We are pleased that it was resolved without the employer deciding once again they were going to run us into court.” 

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said yesterday: “There was a short delay in unlocking prisoners this morning. 

“The regime is now running as normal.”

People living near the prison in Grove Road have told the Echo they have seen an increase in the amount of emergency services vehicles being called to the site in recent months.

Earlier this week, firefighters were called to the site twice due to fires in cells.

Grove Road resident Katherine Lawer, 72, said her car was damaged by rocks being thrown over the wall from the prison a few months ago. 

In November last year prison staff joined a national protest in a row over working conditions, saying they didn’t feel safe.

They spoke about how drugs were rife at the 580-capacity prison, which is a mixture of young offenders and adult category C prisoners, but say they are too 
understaffed to be able to control it.

The news comes after the Prison Officers’ Association condemned the government for failing to listen to their concerns nationally about the risks posed to prison officers, saying they were effectively leaving staff to operate in a ‘war zone’.

Mike Rolfe, chairman of the association, said: “Our members have been abandoned by this government in the mouth of a volcano that’s about to erupt and there is no rescue in sight.”