Violence in UK prisons continues to soar as self-harming hits new high

Violence in UK prisons continues to soar as self-harming hits new high

Attacks on prison staff in the UK rose 15% in a year, while self-harm incidents in jails reached a new record level, official figures show.

Assaults behind bars hit a new high of 34,425 in the 12 months to March 2019, up 11% from the previous year, and a rate of 415 incidents per 1,000 prisoners.

There were 10,311 attacks on staff – the highest since comparable records began, a British Ministry of Justice (MoJ) report showed.

Of those, 1,002 assaults were classed as “serious” – such as those which require medical treatment or result in fractures, burns, or extensive bruising – an increase of 12% from 2017/18.

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

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

There was a record high of 57,968 self-harm incidents, up 24% since the previous year, with the number of prisoners self-harming increasing by 6% to 12,539.

In the year to June 2019, there were 309 deaths in prison – down slightly from 311 the previous year – including 86 which were believed to be self-inflicted, up from 81.

Assaults, including serious assaults, attacks on staff and self-harm incidents were all up on the previous quarter.

In April, then prisons minister Rory Stewart said he hoped he had turned the tide on violence behind bars after the three months to December 2018 showed a decrease in assaults, including those on staff – the first quarterly drop in two years.

He had promised to resign if the violence figures did not improve before he was promoted to International Development Secretary, a post he resigned from after Theresa May stepped down as prime minister on Wednesday.

The most effective way to cut crime is to reduce reoffending. That means investing in prison safety and rehabilitation to help offenders turn their lives around

The latest figures show there was an 18% increase in assaults at youth institutions to 2,331 – a new record level – and a 47% rise in serious assaults on staff, to 50 incidents, in the latest year.

The figures come after the Government stopped sending children to Feltham A young offender institution following an inspection which found an “extraordinary” decline in safety levels.

A report outlined soaring levels of violence and self-harm, high use of staff force, poor care and long periods of lock-up in cells at the high-profile unit in west London, which holds youngsters aged between 15 and 18.

It was the first time the urgent notification process – requiring the Justice Secretary to publicly report on improvement measures within 28 days – had been used for a young offender institution.

Charlotte Pickles, director of the Reform think tank, said: “These figures continue to show unacceptably high levels of violence and self-harm in our prisons.

“Our new Prime Minister has presented himself as tough on crime.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

“But the most effective way to cut crime is to reduce reoffending. That means investing in prison safety and rehabilitation to help offenders turn their lives around.

“It also means keeping prison as a last resort.”

Deborah Coles, director of charity Inquest, called on the new Justice Secretary to take “bold and decisive” action to tackle the prisons crisis.

“Deaths, self-harm, violence, impoverished regimes and conditions are the daily reality of the prison system,” she said.

“Despair and distress are at unprecedented levels in failing institutions within a failing system.

“The failure to act on warnings from inspection, monitoring, investigation bodies and inquests exposes an accountability vacuum allowing dangerous practices to continue.

“The new Justice Secretary must act upon what are clear solutions – tackle sentencing policy, reduce the prison population and redirect resources to community health and welfare services.”

- Press Association

More on this topic

Prison Service drops action against whistleblowerPrison Service drops action against whistleblower

'The discontinuance of disciplinary action against a prison officer is disturbing on a number of levels''The discontinuance of disciplinary action against a prison officer is disturbing on a number of levels'

Prisoner asked to go back into cell after lock-up errorPrisoner asked to go back into cell after lock-up error

Irish Prison Service spent €325,000 on Sky Sports and other premium channels for inmatesIrish Prison Service spent €325,000 on Sky Sports and other premium channels for inmates

More in this Section

Ryanair strikes called off by British pilots’ unionRyanair strikes called off by British pilots’ union

Trump: I said nothing wrong to foreign leaderTrump: I said nothing wrong to foreign leader

Premier League footballer blackmail trial: Messages between defendants revealedPremier League footballer blackmail trial: Messages between defendants revealed

US experts bid to find out why vaping may cause oil-filled lungsUS experts bid to find out why vaping may cause oil-filled lungs


Lifestyle

As he launches his latest cookbook, Donal Skehan talks to Clodagh Finn about juggling his career and family, and why a heavy workload has left him with a few grey hairs.Getting back to basics with Donal Skehan

Venetia Quick, co-founder of ‘Grief Encounters’ tells Ruth O’Connor that there is no right or wrong way to grieve the death of a loved one.Grief Encounters: Podcast opening up conversation about bereavement

Once again for this week’s review I was reminded about the quality of Irish meat — and yet it seems the meat processors expect our farmers to produce it at a loss.Restaurant Review: Mister S, Camden St Upper, Dublin 2

Your guide to what's going on in the gardening world this week.Gardening notes: Your guide to what's on

More From The Irish Examiner