Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Friday, 2 May 2008 18:00 UK

Prison officers in stab vest call

Prison guard locking jail door
The disturbances were believed to have been racially motivated

Calls are being made for prison officers to be allowed to wear stab-proof vests after a warder was attacked at a Cheshire jail.

Glyn Travis, assistant secretary of the Prison Officers Association, demanded action after the HMP Risley incident.

A series of what are believed to be racially-motivated fights broke out in the exercise yard at the jail near Warrington on Thursday night.

The guard was stabbed as he tried to break up a disturbance.

The Prison Service said three prisoners were taken to hospital after the series of fights

Two of the prisoners remain in hospital being treated for non-life threatening injuries, while one has now returned to HMP Risley.

There are no current plans to issue stab-proof vests to all officers...
Prison Service spokesperson

The prison officer who was hurt has also been released from hospital and is now off-duty.

Colin Moses, chairman of the Prison Officers' Association (POA), said: "It is clear that officers and other uniformed staff no longer feel they have full control of prisons and prisoners.

"The service undertakes an extremely dangerous job. Something needs to be done to put this right.

"Incidents like this re-emphasise the need for prison staff to be empowered."

Executive officer Tom Robson said that because his members did not have access to the kind of items used by police - such as pepper spray and Tasers - they had to rely on their wits.

"Our best weapon within the prison is our mouths and our ability to be able to talk and interact with inmates," said Mr Robson.

"But that's getting more and more difficult as prison officers become more and more thin on the ground."

A spokeswoman for the Prison Service said stab-proof vests were only currently issued to officers taking part in "planned control and restraint activities".

"The Prison Service takes the safety of staff very seriously and does offer protective equipment to those likely to be involved in dangerous situations," she said.

"There are no current plans to issue stab-proof vests to all officers but this decision will be kept under review as part of the Prison Service overall strategy to reduce violence in prisons."

Cheshire Police are now investigating the cause of the disturbance.

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