UK prisons: Assaults and attacks on staff at record levels

UK prisons: Assaults and attacks on staff at record levels

The number of assaults in prisons in England and Wales has reached a record high.

There were 33,803 attacks by prisoners in the year to the end of September 2018 – 20% up on the previous year.

The figures include a record 10,085 assaults on prison staff – up 29%.

There were 92 self-inflicted deaths in 2018, up from 72 in 2017.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said violence and self-harm in prisons is “unacceptably high.”

The charity Prison Reform Trust (PRT) described the figures as “disturbing”.

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Of the total number of assaults 3,949 (12%) were serious, up 6% from the previous year.

The figures, published by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), also revealed there were:

  • 325 deaths in prison custody in the 12 months to December 2018 – up 10%
  • 24,138 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in the 12 months to September 2018 – up 18%
  • Four killings in jail last year

Many prisons in England and Wales have seen surging levels of violence, drug use and self-harm in recent years.

The government says it is spending an extra £70m, including recruiting 4,000 extra staff, to help boost security in prisons.

Ministers plan to roll out synthetic pepper spray, known as Pava, to staff in publicly run prisons for men this year, following trials.

The MoJ has also announced traditional prison window bars are to be replaced with toughened glass and air vents in new prisons to help prevent drugs being smuggled in.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said he was “optimistic” the new measures could reduce violence.

“Clearly there is huge amount yet to be done but I am determined to cut the violence so prisons can focus on rehabilitating the offenders who will be back out at some point.

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“And while these figures are disturbing, I am optimistic that the measures we have been putting in place will help us to reduce violence and ultimately better protect the public.”

‘Making a volatile situation even worse”

PRT’s head of policy, Mark Day, said government plans were not working and warned Pava sprays could make “a volatile situation even worse.”

“The measures the government have put in place to improve prison safety, including increasing staff numbers and the roll out of a new key worker model, have not yet succeeded in reversing this rising trend.”

Prison staff union the Prison Officers’ Association said the figures were shocking and showed no progress had yet been made.

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