Ministry of Justice’s Statistics confirm continuing rise in rates of violence in prison
On 31 January 2019, the Ministry of Justice released its latest Safety in Custody Statistics for England and Wales These statistics relate to prison custody as well as immigration removal centres. Across the board, there has been a marked increase in rates of violence.
It makes for damning reading.
The number of deaths in prison custody increased by 10% from the previous year. In total, there were 325 deaths in prison custody in 2018.
92 deaths in prison custody were recorded as self-inflicted, an increase of just over 30% from the previous calendar year. 4 deaths were reported as apparent homicides. 67 deaths recorded as "awaiting further information", potentially because investigations to establish cause of death are pending, ongoing or were inconclusive.
Incidents of self-harm rose by 23% in the 12 months up to September 2018, to 52,814 - a record high. Of those, 3,149 were classed as requiring hospital attendance - also a record high.
There was an 18% increase on prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in the 12 months leading up to September 2018, to a total of 24,138 incidents. 3019 of these were classed as "serious" which was in itself an increase of 2% from the previous year. Both figures are record highs.
The statistics for "serious assaults" encompass incidents which fall into one or more of the following categories: a sexual assault; an assault which requires detention in outside hospital as an in-patient; requires medical treatment for concussion or internal injuries; or incurs any of the following injuries: a fracture, scald or burn, stabbing, crushing, extensive or multiple bruising, black eye, broken nose, lost or broken tooth, cuts requiring suturing, bites, temporary or permanent blindness
Assaults on staff increased by 29% from the previous year, to a total of 10,085.
Statistics for incidents of assaults by staff were not provided.
The government's response to the escalating violence has been to plan to train over 4,000 new officers and to put an additional £70 million into various supposed safety and security measures, including arming officers with pepper spray.
As of last week, the Howard League for Penal Reform gave the number of those in prison as 82,233 and the prison population continues to rise. The latest government proposals only address the symptoms, not the causes, of such systemic violence and as a result, it is difficult to see how they will ultimately succeed in making prisons safer.
If you are concerned that you or someone you know it at risk of serious harm in prison, it is very important that you report those concerns to someone that you trust and/or to prison staff directly, if you feel that it is safe to do so.
In the event of an incident of self-harm or where you have been the victim of a 'serious assault', a solicitor can help you to preserve evidence of what happened and to demand that the prison or police investigates properly and for you to be kept safe and treated for any injuries in the aftermath. In specific circumstances, compensation may be payable in relation to the injuries sustained.
At Saunders Law, we offer expert legal assistance and representation in matters arising from serious assaults in prison, be it by another prisoner or by prison staff. We appreciate that circumstances like these are exceptionally difficult and that everyone's experience is different, and we are used to adapting our service to make sure that it meets our clients' needs.