United Kingdom: prison statistics reveal big rise in self-harm and assaults on staff

The scale of the prison crisis in England and Wales is revealed by the latest annual figures showing a 38% rise in assaults on staff and a 24% rise in self-harm incidents in the past year to record levels.

The latest Ministry of Justice safety in custody statistics also show that there were 113 self-inflicted deaths in the 12 months to this March – an increase of 11 over the previous year.

Troublingly the number of prison suicides included 10 women – far higher than the previous number of two to three a year. There were also three murders behind bars in England and Wales over the same period.

Ministers will try to take some hope from the fact that the figures for the most recent three months show a fall in the number of prison deaths and a 4% decline in assaults, including prisoner on prisoner and on staff.

The latest quarter’s figures show the first fall in the level of prison assaults since 2014, but MoJ statisticians warn that such quarterly figures need to be treated with caution owing to greater volatility and potential for seasonal effects.

The rate of prison suicides has more than doubled since 2013 from 0.6 to 1.3 per 1,000 prisoners, while among female prisoners it has soared from 1 to 2.6 per 1,000. The number of self-inflicted deaths for the 12 months to March 2017 was slightly down on the record 119 recorded in 2016. MoJ officials said the 113 prison suicides were still the fourth highest on record for a 12-month period.

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