Figures released yesterday (31 July) by the Ministry of Justice paint a complex picture of a prison service making heroic strides in some areas while struggling to cope with the impact of rising prison numbers and dramatic cuts to prison staff and budgets, says the Prison Reform Trust
Most worryingly, the figures show a significant increase in the numbers of self-inflicted deaths in custody from 52 in the 12 months to March 2013 to 88 in the 12 months to March 2014. This is the highest rate since 2005. Rates of self-harm among adult male prisoners have also risen.
The number of incidents of recorded assaults (including fights) in prison custody has increased to 15,033 in the 12 months to March 2014 compared with 14,083 in March 2013. The number of assaults on staff has increased to 3,363 incidents from 2,964 in the 12 months to end of March 2013, the highest number since 2007.
Commenting, Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “The tragic rise in the numbers of self-inflicted deaths in custody is the most vivid of the flashing warning signs of a prison service placed under unprecedented strain. Ministers must heed and not dismiss what the facts and figures are telling them. Slashing prison budgets while warehousing ever greater numbers in larger prisons overseen by fewer and less experienced staff is no way to transform rehabilitation.
“Good people have worked hard year on year to make prisons safer and more constructive places. In less than two years of thoughtless change and headline-grabbing policy, sharply rising levels of suicide and violence show just how far their work has been set back.”
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