The British government announced on Sunday that thousands of prison officers would receive an immediate pay rise to combat falling staff levels. Justice Secretary Liz Truss said that £12m ($14.9m) would be made available to staff at 31 prisons in London and the South East.

Officers at prisons including Feltham Young Offenders Institute, Wormwood Scrubs and Belmarsh, would receive pay increases of between £3,000 and £5,000 to help improve uptake of jobs. The pay increase will apply to band three staff, the grade in which most front-line staff sit.

Truss told Andrew Marr's BBC One programme on Sunday the issues had been "building for a number of years", however, she said: "We do have a plan and we're recruiting more officers."

Truss also said that the Prison and Courts Reform Bill, which is due to be published this week, would put a greater emphasis on reforming offenders, of whom half went on to re-offend within a year of release, she said.

"At the moment all I am responsible for is housing prisoners," she added.

The announcement follows riots in a number of prisons in 2016, including HMP Birmingham and HMP Swaleside in Kent, as well as surging levels of attacks on prison staff. In October last year, government statistics revealed attacks on prison staff had risen by 43% in the 12 months up to June 2016 from the previous year to 5,954.

It was announced last year that an extra 2,500 prison staff would be recruited to help bring the level of violence down. However, the Justice Secretary denied that the problem had been caused by government cuts.

In the same interview, Marr said that the number of prison staff had decreased by 6,000, but Truss defended this, suggesting that the "digitisation" of prisons meant fewer staff members were required than had once been the case. She said: "The world has changed and we're digitising our prisons and running them in different ways."

She added that the number of prisoners had stayed the same since 2010, at 85,000, though appeared to contradict herself in the same sentence. She told Marr: "The number of prisoners has stayed the same – we're putting away a record number of sex offenders and we've got fewer people going to prison."

prison guard
Government cuts have led to a decrease in prison staffGetty