The state of our prison system
The Prison Reform Trust has just (19 June 2017) published its most recent “Bromley Briefing” – an up-to-date compendium of facts that give an accurate, if depressing account of the state of our prison system.
If you ever need the latest, official information on anything to do with the penal system, the most recent briefing is always your best source.
Below are ten headline facts from the latest edition; for regular readers I’ve tried to pick the less obvious ones.
1: Our prison population risen by 82% in the last 32 years
Even though crime rates are down and, according to the National Audit Office, there is no consistent correlation between prison numbers and levels of crime. International comparisons also show there is no consistent link between the two.
2: 6,554 are currently in prison because they were recalled
The recall population has increased by nearly 1,000 people since the Offender Rehabilitation Act came into force on 1 February 2015. Nearly 8,000 people serving a sentence of less than 12 months were recalled back to custody in the year to December 2016.
3: Overcrowding remains as bad as ever
At the end of May 2017, 76 of the 117 prisons in England and Wales were overcrowded—holding 9,496 people more than they were designed to. 20,995 people were held in overcrowded accommodation on average in 2015–16—nearly a quarter of the prison population. The majority were doubling up in cells designed for one. This level of overcrowding has remained broadly unchanged for the last 12 years.
4: Costs and staff numbers down
The cost of a prison place reduced by 20% between 2009–10 and 2015–16. The average annual overall cost of a prison place in England and Wales is now £35,182.24. There are now fewer staff looking after more prisoners. The number of frontline operational staff
employed in the public prison estate has fallen by over a quarter (26%) in the last seven years—6,428 fewer staff looking after over 300 more people.
5: BAME people over-represented in prison
Over a quarter (26%) of the prison population, 22,432 people, are from a minority ethnic group. This compares to 14% of the general population. 11% of British prisoners are black and 7% are Asian. For black Britons this is four times higher than the 3% of the general population they represent.
6: One in seven prisoners don’t know if or when they might be released
Indeterminate sentences account for 14% of the sentenced prison population, up from 9% in 1993. England and Wales have more than twice as many people serving indeterminate sentences than France, Germany and Italy combined—the highest in Europe by a significant margin. 10,803 people are currently in prison serving an indeterminate sentence. 7,275 people are currently in prison serving a life sentence and a further 3,528 people are serving an Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP).
7: Women make up only 5% of the total prison population but 10% of people sent to prison each year
8: Big increase in the number of children and young adults restrained in prison
Use of restraint on children in custody remains high, with an average of 360 restraint incidents a month. In the year to March 2016, there were 28 incidents of restraint per 100 children in custody, up from 18 in 2010. 87 incidents required medical treatment as a result of restraint in 2016—three of these required a child to be sent to hospital.
9: Mental health in prison
26% of women and 16% of men said they had received treatment for a mental health problem in the year before custody. 25% of women and 15% of men in prison reported symptoms indicative of psychosis. The rate among the general public is about 4%.
10: Suicide rates 10 times higher in prison
In 2015 the rate of self-inflicted deaths amongst the prison population was 120 per 100,000 people, amongst the general population it is 10.8 per 100,000 people.
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