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27 Jul 2017

Prison assaults and self-injury incidents soar to record highs

Perimeter fencing and barbed wire at Guys Marsh prison

The number of assaults and incidents of self-injury in prisons in England and Wales have risen to record highs, figures seen by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveal today (Thursday 27 July).

Official statistics, published by the Ministry of Justice, show that 26,643 assault incidents were recorded in the 12 months to the end of March 2017 – a 20 per cent increase on the previous year. Assaults on staff rose by 32 per cent.

Serious assaults, including those requiring medical attention at hospital, have almost trebled in four years. There were 3,606 such incidents recorded during the 12 months to the end of March 2017 – a 22 per cent increase on the previous year.

Prisons recorded 40,414 self-injury incidents during the 12 months to the end of March 2017 – a 17 per cent rise from the previous year. This is the fifth successive quarter when incidents of self-injury have reached their highest-ever level.

The figures show that 316 people died in prisons during the 12 months to the end of June 2017, slightly down from 322 during the previous year.

They included 97 people who lost their lives through suicide – 91 in men’s prisons and six in women’s prisons. This is a slight fall from the previous year, when 107 people lost their lives through suicide.

Annual performance rankings show that the number of prisons with the lowest possible rating has risen from six to 10.

The lowest-ranked prisons – Bedford, Birmingham, Bristol, Brixton, Guys Marsh, Hindley, Liverpool, Pentonville, Wandsworth and Wormwood Scrubs – are all rated as performing at a level that causes “serious concern”.

The statistics come a week after Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons reported that the state was failing in its duty to people in prison.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The rising tide of violence and human misery gets higher and higher as chronic overcrowding and staff shortages continue to drive the prison system into chaos. How many people have to die before action is taken?

“The new Secretary of State for Justice must act now to stop the death toll. The first step to recovery is to recognise that there is a problem. The second step is to do something about the problem.

“By taking bold but sensible steps to reduce the prison population, we can save lives and prevent more people being swept away into deeper currents of crime and despair.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  1. The Ministry of Justice’s statistical bulletin, Safety in custody: quarterly update to March 2017, can be viewed online.
  1. Ministry of Justice annual prison performance rankings can be viewed online.

Contact

Rob Preece
Campaigns and Communications Manager
Tel: +44 (0)20 7241 7880
Mobile: +44 (0)7714 604955
Email: robert.preece@howardleague.org

ISDN line available on 020 7923 4196 – uses a G722 system

For enquiries outside normal office hours, please call +44 (0)7918 681094

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