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25 Oct 2018

Further rise in assaults, self-injury and lives lost in prisons in England and Wales

The Howard League for Penal Reform has called on the government to take further steps to reduce the prison population after figures showed that assaults and self-injury in jails rose by 20 per cent last year.

A statistical bulletin published by the Ministry of Justice shows that prisons in England and Wales recorded 49,565 incidents of self-injury in the 12 months to the end of June 2018 – at a rate of one every 10-and-a-half minutes.

Over the same period, prisons recorded a total of 32,559 assault incidents. This included 9,485 assaults on staff – a 27 per cent rise compared to the figure recorded for the 12 months to the end of June 2017.

The figures show that 325 people died in prison custody in the 12 months to the end of September 2018, including 87 people who lost their lives through suicide. There were five homicides.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This is yet another shameful set of statistics that shows the sheer scale of the bloodshed in prisons. Ministers have recognised the gravity of the situation and have announced plans to raise standards in 10 prisons with a view to improving safety across the system.

“But more needs to be done. There is only so long that the government can continue to use Brexit as an excuse for failing to introduce the legislation for sentencing reform that is needed. And, in the meantime, the courts must use custody with parsimony.

“Further action to reduce the number of people in prison would save lives, protect staff and prevent more people being swept into deeper currents of crime, violence 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 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 on the Howard League website.
  1. The Ministry of Justice statistical bulletin, Safety in custody quarterly: update to June 2018, can be found online.
  1. Another Ministry of Justice statistical bulletin published today, Offender management statistics quarterly: April to June 2018, reveals that there were 83,005 prisoners in England and Wales as at 30 September 2018 – a 3 per cent reduction from the same point in the previous year. The bulletin can be found online.


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