25 Jan 2018
A welcome fall in deaths in custody but new record highs for violence and self-injury in prison
Violence and self-injury in jails have soared to record levels as overcrowding continues to put pressure on the prison system, figures seen by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveal today (Thursday 25 January).
Official data published by the Ministry of Justice show that 28,165 assaults were recorded in prisons in England and Wales in the 12 months to the end of September 2017 – a 12 per cent rise on the previous year.
They included 7,828 assaults on prison staff – a 22 per cent rise compared to the previous 12 months.
Incidents of self-injury rose by 12 per cent to 42,837 over the same period.
It means that incidents of assault and self-injury are at their highest levels since current recording practices began in 1978.
The figures show that 295 people died in jails in 2017, including 70 people who lost their lives through suicide.
184 people were recorded to have died of natural causes. Investigations into the deaths of a further 38 prisoners remain incomplete, with more information awaited. There were three apparent homicides in prison in 2017.
The number of prisoners losing their lives through suicide has fallen significantly. In 2016, 120 people died – the highest number on record. 12 of these self-inflicted deaths in 2016 were women, whereas two women lost their lives in prison through suicide in 2017.
Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Against a backdrop of continued problems affecting prison safety, there has been a welcome reduction in the number of people who have lost their lives through suicide.
“Given that 2016 was the worst year on record in this area, however, improvement was a must. There is no room for complacency when it remains the case that a prisoner dies by suicide every three days. We have no way of knowing how many more lives have been saved by quick-thinking staff, many of whom are working in intolerable conditions.
“As the prison system buckles under the weight of chronic overcrowding and staff shortages, the wave of violence and self-injury rises higher and higher. The new Secretary of State for Justice and his minister for prisons must respond boldly and urgently to this national emergency, to prevent more people being hurt.
“Reducing the prison population would save lives, protect staff and stop others being swept into deeper currents of crime, violence and despair.”
Deaths in prisons
The number of deaths in prison, and those deaths by suicide, in each prison in England and Wales in 2017 is indicated in the table below:
|Prison||Deaths in prison in 2017||Deaths by suicide in prison in 2017|
|East Sutton Park||0||0|
|Grendon/Spring Hill: Grendon||1||0|
|Isle of Wight||7||1|
|Moorland Open (Hatfield)||1||0|
|North Sea Camp||1||0|
|Sheppey: Standford Hill||2||0|
Notes to editors
- 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.
- The Howard League and another charity, Centre for Mental Health, worked together on a joint programme on preventing people dying by suicide in prison. Further information about the programme can be found at: https://howardleague.org/our-campaigns/transform-prisons/preventing-deaths-in-prison/inquiry-into-preventing-prison-suicides/
- The Ministry of Justice’s statistical bulletin, Safety in Custody quarterly: update to September 2017, can be found online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/safety-in-custody-quarterly-update-to-september-2017
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