Prison officers who break up gangs behind bars are being targeted on the outside - with attacks on their cars and homes.

Unions last night warned of a spate of mob-style attacks on staff.

They are targeted in revenge for after cons are moved between wings and jails to deter organized crime behind bars.

In the latest incident 22 staff cars were left covered in paint stripper near Buckley Hall jail, Lancs.

Police are probing the attack which caused £25,000 damage.

A further 14 cars were targeted belonging to staff at Manchester’s strangeways jail.

Earlier a jail nurse at HMP Risley, Cheshire, had their white BMW firebombed in a case of mistaken identity.

The arsonist had meant to target an officer who had disciplined a gang member.

In the latest incident 22 staff cars were left covered in paint stripper near Buckley Hall jail, Lancs

The prison officers union fear it is the latest tactic being used by organised crime to intimidate them.

They say arson and attacks on vehicles belonging to staff has escalated over the last few years.

Gangs based in Liverpool are believed to be mainly responsible.

Mick Nimblett of the Prison Offices Association said: “The attacks on cars owned by prison officers is an example of the escalating violence aimed at prison staff.

“For example, the homes of prison officers have also been attacked by criminals linked to serving inmates.

“The fear is that a prison officer will be seriously hurt - or die.”

A prison officer whose car was trashed said: “This is a disgusting attempt to intimidate us.

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“Despite this, we will be back at work doing the job.”

The officer said staff were pressing the Prison Service to stump up for the repairs - as they argue the damage is ‘work related’.

The Ministry of Justice said the vandalism was a police matter.