Prison violence in England and Wales hits record levels

Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults up 11% and assaults on staff up 23% in 2017, MoJ figures show

Violence against prison staff and among inmates in jails in England and Wales has hit record highs, official figures show.

There were 29,485 assault incidents in jails in England and Wales last year, an increase of 13% on 2016, according to the quarterly Ministry of Justice (MoJ) report.

Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults increased by 11% to 21,270 in 2017. Of these, 3,029 were serious assaults, an increase of 10% on the previous year. Both figures are record highs.

There were 8,429 assaults on staff in the 12 months to December 2017, up 23% from the previous year. The MoJ report on safety in custody noted there had been a change in how assaults on staff are recorded, which may have contributed to the increase.

Of the attacks on officers, 864 were classed as serious, such as those requiring medical treatment or resulting in fractures, burns or extensive bruising.

The justice secretary, David Gauke, said urgent action was being taken to tackle the “far too high” levels of violence. “Assaults on our hardworking staff will never be tolerated,” he said.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the figures were a “symptom of a prison system in crisis”.

Crook said: “Ultimately, positive steps to reduce the prison population would save lives, protect staff and stop others being swept into deeper currents of crime, violence and despair.”

The figures also show there were 44,651 incidents of self-harm among inmates last year, up by 11% compared with 2016. The number of self-harming individuals increased by 6% to a new high of 11,630.

In the year to March there were 299 deaths in prison custody, a year-on-year fall of 13%. There were 69 self-inflicted deaths, down from 115 in the previous year.


Jamie Grierson

The GuardianTramp

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