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28 Apr 2016

A prisoner is dying every day as deaths, assaults and self-injury in prisons continue to rise

Prisons in England and Wales are becoming increasingly violent and dangerous, with deaths, assaults and incidents of self-injury continuing to rise, figures seen by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveal today (Thursday 28 April).

Statistics published by the Ministry of Justice show that 290 people died in prison custody in the 12 months to March 2016 – an increase of 51 compared to the previous 12-month period.

They included 100 men and women who took their own lives. The number of people dying by suicide in prisons has almost doubled in the last three years.

Ninety-one men and women died in prisons during the first three months of 2016 – an average of one death per day. This is the highest number ever seen in a single quarter.

In 2015, the likelihood of prison mortality was 45 per cent greater than in the general population.

More than 32,000 incidents of self-injury were reported in prisons during 2015 – a 25 per cent increase on 2014. Reports of self-injury by men were 74 per cent higher than in 2010.

Women accounted for almost a quarter of self-injury incidents during 2015, but they only make up 5 per cent of the prison population.

More than 20,000 assaults were recorded in prisons during 2015 – a 27 per cent increase in 2014.

The number of assaults recorded as “serious” increased by 31 per cent. Sexual assaults rose from 228 in 2014 to 300 in 2015.

Prison staff were assaulted almost 5,000 times during 2015 – a 36 per cent rise on 2014.

The figures show that there were almost 1,900 assaults in prisons holding children during 2015 – a five-year high.Reports of self-injury in children’s prisons were also up – from 315 in 2014 to 375 in 2015.

The Howard League and Centre for Mental Health are working together on a joint programme on preventing people from dying by suicide in prison.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “These shocking statistics spell out the scale of the problems in a prison system that is failing after years of rising numbers, chronic overcrowding and deep staff cuts. We are hearing a lot of fine talk from the government about how things will be put right, but at the moment there appears to be no action. Meanwhile, people are dying. How many more people will die before something is done?” 

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.
  2. The Ministry of Justice’s ‘Safety in Custody’ statistical bulletin can be viewed online.
  3. The Howard League and Centre for Mental Health are working together on a joint programme on preventing people from dying by suicide in prison. More information about the programme can be found here.


Rob Preece
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