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21 Sep 2016

Urgent action needed to stop homicides in prison

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman’s learning lessons bulletin on homicides, published today (Wednesday 21 September).

The bulletin, based on the ombudsman’s investigations, states that the rising number of homicides is “emblematic of the wholly unacceptable level of violence in our prisons”.

The bulletin also points to a rise in the number of assaults involving weapons. There were almost 4,000 such assaults during 2015 – a 38 per cent increase on the previous year.

New psychoactive substances are contributing to bullying, violence and debt in prisons, the ombudsman adds.

Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The Howard League is aware of eight homicides in prisons during the calendar year of 2015 – the highest number on record – and the growing number of assaults involving weapons is particularly concerning.

“Reducing resources while allowing the prison population to grow unchecked has created a toxic mix of violence, death and human misery. Urgent action is needed to make prisons safer.

“Solving the problem will require imaginative thinking and bold action to stop throwing so many people into these failing institutions, where they are swept away into deeper currents of crime.”

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 bulletin can be read on the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman’s website.


Rob Preece
Campaigns and Communications Manager
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