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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Our prisons are getting more dangerous

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This litany of figures hides of course the distress and tragedy behind all these individual incidents for both prisoners and staff. For just as self-harm incidents have increased by over one fifth, serious assaults on staff are up by over two fifths.

More deaths, self-harm and assaults

The latest (29 October 2015) safety in custody statistics published by the MoJ make for profoundly depressing reading.

Below is the key table from the report:

safety in custody sept 2015

Deaths in prison Custody

In the 12 months to September 2015 there were 267 deaths in prison custody; an increase of 33 compared to the 12 months ending September 2014. These deaths comprise of:

  • 95 apparent self-inflicted deaths, up from 91 on the same period in 2014
  • 153 deaths due to natural causes, up from 136 on the same period in 2014
  • 7 apparent homicides, up from 3 on the same period in 2014. Homicides are relatively rare, accounting for 3% of all deaths in the most recent period, and 1% over the last ten years.
  • 12 other deaths, 8 of which remain classified as ‘awaiting further information’

[divider]
Self-harm

In the 12 months to June 2015 there were:

  • 28,881 reported incidents of self-harm, up by 4,929 incidents (21%) from the same period in 2014
  • 338 self-harm incidents per 1,000 prisoners, compared with 282 incidents per 1,000 prisoners in the same period of 2014 (up 20%)
  • 7,955 prisoners reported to have self-harmed, up 722 (10%) on the same period in 2014
  • 93 individuals self-harming per 1,000 prisoners, up by 8 per 1,000 prisoners (9%) from the same period in 2014

[divider]

Assaults

Changes to quality assurance processes in 2013 led to improved reporting of assaults. In the 12 months to June 2015 there were:

  • 17,581 assault incidents, up 13% from 15,548 incidents in the 12 months to June 2014
  • 206 assault incidents per 1,000 prisoners, up from 183 in the same period of 2014
  • 2,480 serious assaults up 34% on the same period in 2014. This is an 80% increase from the 12 months to June 2013.
  • 13,373 prisoner on prisoner assaults, up 11% from 12,039 incidents in the 12 months to June 2014
  • 156 prisoner on prisoner assault incidents per 1,000 prisoners, up from 142 in the 12 months to June 2014
  • 1,914 serious prisoner on prisoner assaults up 31% from 1,463 in the same period of 2014
  • 4,156 assaults on staff, up 20% from 3,458 incidents in the 12 months to June 2014
  • 49 assault on staff incidents per 1,000 prisoners, up from 41 in the 12 months to June 2014
  • 578 serious assaults on staff up 42% from 408 in the 12 months to June 2014

[divider]

Conclusion

This litany of figures hides of course the distress and tragedy behind all these individual incidents for both prisoners and staff. For just as self-harm incidents have increased by over one fifth, serious assaults on staff are up by over two fifths.

The Chief Inspector of Prisons, the Howard League for Penal Reform and many other seasoned commentators have been saying for some time that the drastic cuts in prison staff have made our prisons the least safe they have been for generations.

These figures provide a further urgent driver for Michael Gove to deliver on the reforms he promised at the recent Conservative Party Conference.

 

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