UK : prison violence epidemic partly due to staff cuts, MoJ admits

Self-inflicted deaths at a record high and assaults rise 34% as observers condemn “toxic mix of violence, death and misery”.
The Ministry of Justice has explicitly acknowledged that staff cuts are a factor in the rising tide of violence in prisons in England and Wales.

The latest figures show that self-inflicted deaths inside jails rose 13% to a record 107 in the 12 months to September, and assaults behind bars increased by more than 34% to 23,775 – about 65 per day – in the 12 months to the end of June 2016. Incidents of self-harm, another key indicator of prison safety, rose by 26% to 36,400 reported incidents in the year to June.

The MoJ figures show an increasingly volatile situation in women’s prisons, with the number of self-inflicted deaths doubling from four to eight in the past 12 months and assaults rising by 25% in a year.

The rise in assaults since 2012 has coincided with major changes to the regime, operating arrangements and culture in public sector prisons,” says an MoJ commentary on the prison safety figures published on Thursday. “For example, restructuring of the prison estate, including staff reductions, which have reduced overall running costs, and an increase in gang culture and illicit psychoactive drugs in prisons. As well as the dangers to both physical and mental health, trading in these illicit drugs can lead to debt, violence and intimidation.

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