PRISON violence has sparked a sick leave crisis with a record number of staff signed off with stress.

A total of 1,939 officers have taken time off for depression, anxiety or mental health problems this year, official figures show.

Many claim they have been driven to the brink by assaults and staff shortages.

About 28 prison officers are attacked by lags every day.

Last year, 1,244 officers left the service.

Mick Pimblett, of the Prison Officers’ Association, said: “Staff are in the most dangerous workplaces in Europe without adequate protective equipment.

“They witness violence, suicide and self-harm regularly and this is bound to have an effect.

“All this with a management who use the attendance policy to discipline staff instead of supporting them.”

Nine years ago — when the service had 7,000 more staff — 1,484 officers took sick leave.

The Prison Service said: “We have recruited 4,700 officers in two years, are spending £100million on security and offer 24/7 counselling.”

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