PPO share how Use of Force policy should be applied in practice by prison staff

Issued today, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman released their second Policy into Practice publication, sharing key learning for officers on the use of force in prisons.

The PPO investigates complaints about use of force in prisons and a common question in our investigations is considering whether the use of force was necessary, reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.

As a result of us actively feeding into HM Prison and Probation Service policy consultations, this publication combines policy and case studies from real PPO investigations to highlight learning on how policy should be applied in practice.

Policy into Practice: Use of Force Policy Framework

Our publication highlights some key areas of learning from the HMPPS Use of Force Policy Framework:

  1. Necessity – all use of force must be necessary, even at a low level. We have found in our investigations that incidents can escalate, and this can increase the risk of harm to staff and prisoners.
  2. De-escalation – Staff must seek to diffuse confrontational situations and attempt to resolve them without the use of force wherever possible. If force is initiated, attempts to de-escalate should continue.
  3. Body worn video cameras – BWVCs provide evidence of actions leading up to and during a use of force incident.
  4. Role of healthcare – prisoners must see a registered healthcare professional within 24 hours of force being used, even if the prisoner does not appear to have sustained an injury. We also sometimes see occasions where the healthcare examination following use of force was not sufficient.


The Use of Force Policy Framework also explains that ‘Governors must establish a diverse and empowered UoF Committee which must meet on at least a monthly basis to oversee UoF’. The PPO has seen impressive models for the UoF Committee in prison which ensure there is scrutiny of incidents and learning is shared and embedded. This should continue as best practice across all prisons.

Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, Adrian Usher said: “Our Policy into Practice publication series shows why policy needs to be put into practice by prison staff.

I hope that the learning highlighted impacts the actions taken by prison staff and healthcare, and in return, the lives of those in custody”.

Read the publication here