THE number of prison officers in Wales has been cut by 15 per cent in three years, with the biggest decrease reported in Gwent.

Research from the charity Howard League for Penal Reform, shows there were 693 officer grade staff working in the region’s prisons in September 2013, compared with 820 in September 2010.

In Usk/Prescoed, prison officers dropped by a third from 90 on 2010 to 60 in 2013.

The findings are published in the Howard League’s latest research briefing paper.

It warns suicides, assaults and riots will become increasingly common unless urgent action is taken to increase officer numbers and reduce prisoner numbers.

As of July 8, at least 43 people had committed suicide in prisons in England and Wales during the year so far – a 30 per cent rise on the same point last year, when there had been 33 suicides.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The prison system is at breaking point.

“Everyone should be concerned at the crisis in prisons as when people come out of jail they are more likely to inflict more crime on us.”