Assaults and self-harm in jails hit new record levels

Twenty-three attacks on prison staff are recorded every day on average as surging levels of violence continue to sweep through jails in England and Wales.

Ministry of Justice figures reveal assaults and self-harm behind bars climbed again last year to hit new record highs.

There were 29,485 assault incidents in jails in England and Wales last year, an increase of 13% on 2016.

Within that figure, there were 8,429 assaults on prison staff in the 12 months to December, a year-on-year rise of more than a fifth (23%).

Of the attacks on officers, 864 were classed as "serious" - such as those which require medical treatment or result in fractures, burns, or extensive bruising.

The number of assaults on staff in the last three months of 2017 increased by 5% to 2,327 - the highest quarterly tally on record.

The MoJ report noted that there has been a change in how assaults on staff are recorded, which may have contributed to the increase.

Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults went up by 11% to 21,270 in 2017.

Assaults in prisons
(PA Graphics)

There were 44,651 incidents of self-harm among inmates last year, up by 11% compared with 2016, while the number of self-harming individuals increased by 6% to a new record high of 11,630.

In the year to March, there were 299 deaths in prison custody, a year-on-year fall of 13%. There were 69 self-inflicted deaths, down from 115 in the previous year.

The findings on assaults and self-harm underline the scale of the safety crisis that has gripped much of the prisons estate in recent years.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the figures are a "symptom of a prison system in crisis".

She said: "Ultimately, positive steps to reduce the prison population would save lives, protect staff and stop others being swept into deeper currents of crime, violence and despair."

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-- Ministry of Justice (@MoJGovUK) April 22, 2018

Justice Secretary David Gauke acknowledged that levels of violence, suicide and self-harm in prisons are "far too high" and said the Government is taking "urgent action to address these problems".

He said: "Assaults on our hardworking staff will never be tolerated.

"We are ensuring prison officers have the tools they need to do the job, rolling out body worn cameras, 'police-style' handcuffs and restraints, and trialling PAVA incapacitant spray.

"Our recruitment drive is vital to ensuring prisons are safe, secure and decent so they can successfully rehabilitate offenders, and 90% of our additional 3,111 prison officers are due to be on landings by the summer."

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