AS thousands of prison officers across the country walked out of jails today in protest at the volatile and dangerous state of prisons the new governor of Erlestoke has spoken about how his establishment has recovered from a riot this summer.

Tim Knight was deputy governor when a weekend of violence left two wings so badly damaged they are still out of action but he says the atmosphere in the prison is now calm and safe.

While officers from other parts of the country walked out none from Erlestoke took part.

Mr Knight said today: "None of my staff have taken industrial action and therefore we are operating normally."

A day earlier he had spoken about the atmosphere in the jail now, five months after the trouble which saw 130 prisoners moved out.

He said: "We have a zero tolerance to violence either against staff or offender on offender.

"We are running a full regime with the men taking part in work and education."

He said that most inmates were out of their cells for the majority of the day and most were keen to learn a skill or improve their reading and writing in the hope of finding work when they are released.

He said that while the two blocks remain closed meaning the number of inmates is down from 524 to 390 he was hoping they would be back in operation by April.

He said that despite the lower number of prisoners his staff had not been reduced but he said: "I would prefer for us to be running full."

New officers are also being recruited and despite the publicity about the stress and violence faced by officers in some parts of the country he believed it was a good career choice.

Mr Knight, 36, who is married with one child, is one of the youngest governors in the country and has risen quickly through the ranks.

He said: "I am pleased we have a number of new people coming through and there are good opportunities."

Mr Knight, who has worked in a variety of jails across the south west including an earlier stint at Erlestoke, hopes to stay in Wiltshire for a number of years and has called on the community to help keep the prison free of drugs and mobile phones.

He said: "We need people living near the prison to help us. If they see anything suspicious we want them to contact the police or us."

Recent TV documentaries have shown that people living close to prisons in London are plagued by drones delivering contraband and by people throwing things over the wall.

While Erlestoke does not suffer from this level of disturbance he accepted that friends and family of prisoners could be put under pressure to try and deliver banned items and did not always realise they could end up with long sentences themselves.

The drug spice, which has become a major problem in prisons across the country, poses a major headache for the authorities as it is hard to detect. It was blamed by some in June for the volatile nature of some inmates before the riot.

The smoking ban that came into force as part of a pilot study at Erlestoke also caused tension but Mr Knight said he believed the help offered to prisoners to help with the transition was working. Included in the therapy is the use of e-cigarettes.

Mr Knight also praised the work of the Friends of Erlestoke Prison and said this was another way people living nearby could support the prison by becoming volunteers.

He said: "I want to have a good relationship with the community and for us to work together."

  • This afternoon prison officers elsewhere were ordered back to work after thousands joined a protest held amid claims jails are "in meltdown".

The Government took the unusual step of launching a High Court bid to block industrial action after guards gathered outside establishments around the country.

Granting an injunction, Mr Justice Kerr said it was a "very urgent" application with evidence of up to 80% of staff taking some sort of action in the majority of prisons.

"A number of incidents have occurred in prisons today and the situation is very concerning indeed," the judge added.