Thousands of British prison officers have walked off the job to protest rising violence behind bars.

Members of the Prison Officers Association protested Tuesday by stopping work, though they said they would respond to emergencies.

Prison guards are barred from striking and the government asked the High Court to rule the protest unlawful.

Prison staff say government cuts have made their job more dangerous and worsened conditions for prisoners.

Several recent incidents have supported their claims. Earlier this month, 200 prisoners rioted at Bedford Prison in southern England, and separately two inmates escaped from London's Pentonville Prison.

Tuesday's walkout led to court hearings being abandoned because prisoners couldn't attend. Jurors in the murder trial of Thomas Mair, accused of killing lawmaker Jo Cox, were sent home for the day.