Prison warders who have failed annual fitness test since 2018 numbers 828

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They are experts on porridge, but it appears Britain’s prison officers have being showing too much interest in pies and chips too.

More than 800 ‘screws’ have repeatedly failed fitness tests in the past two years.

In the eight years before 2014, just 140 prison officers failed the annual test – part of which involves running at a speed for three-and-a-half minutes – but since 2018, 828 have flunked each of three attempts. 

According to figures released under Freedom of Information rules, six officers were given special dispensation to try for a fourth time. The others were dismissed or given jobs elsewhere in the prison service.

In the eight years before 2014, just 140 prison officers failed the annual test ¿ part of which involves running at a speed for three-and-a-half minutes ¿ but since 2018, 828 have flunked each of three attempts. (Above, an officer arrives for work last week at Wandsworth Prison)

In the eight years before 2014, just 140 prison officers failed the annual test – part of which involves running at a speed for three-and-a-half minutes – but since 2018, 828 have flunked each of three attempts. (Above, an officer arrives for work last week at Wandsworth Prison)

Last night, Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said: ‘I’m aghast so many prison officers are failing the test. 

‘Anyone serving in a role like this requires a good level of fitness and a sensible BMI.’

Research conducted by Nottingham University before the fitness tests were introduced in 2001 found prison staff were prone to a lifestyle of drinking, smoking and little exercise.

Two-thirds of senior managers at London’s Wandsworth prison, for example, admitted to drinking more than 21 units of alcohol a week. 

While the prison now encourages healthy living, some staff still appeared alarmingly overweight as they arrived for their shifts last week.

The fitness test requires officers to complete a bleep test which examines their aerobic ability. 

Research conducted by Nottingham University before the fitness tests were introduced in 2001 found prison staff were prone to a lifestyle of drinking, smoking and little exercise. Two-thirds of senior managers at London's Wandsworth prison, for example, admitted to drinking more than 21 units of alcohol a week

Research conducted by Nottingham University before the fitness tests were introduced in 2001 found prison staff were prone to a lifestyle of drinking, smoking and little exercise. Two-thirds of senior managers at London’s Wandsworth prison, for example, admitted to drinking more than 21 units of alcohol a week

There are also grip and ‘dynamic upper body strength’ tests alongside a speed agility challenge and a requirement to hold a riot shield weighing 15 lb (7kg) for one minute at a 45-degree angle.

Mark Fairhurst, from the Prison Officers’ Association, said the test should be axed and replaced by health screening. ‘Staff do not have the time in the week to train for this test.’

Last night, a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: ‘Ninety-seven per cent of prison officers pass on their first attempt. Those who fail can be offered roles elsewhere.’

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