Violence inside prisons in England and Wales has been getting worse for some time now, and the latest set of government statistics do not, sadly, buck the trend.
The Ministry of Justice has revealed that attacks on prison officers have increased 25% in the year up to June 2017. There were 7,400 inflicted on staff, including almost 800 serious assaults.
There were also just over 41,000 incidents of self-harm in the year to June 2017, including a 10% rise in one quarter.
The Ministry of Justice’s own sober analysis of the latest numbers concludes that “there has been a clear upward trend since December 2012 in serious assault incidents of all types.”
Our prisons are fit to bursting and this is leading to horrific incidents of self-harm and violence
Ed Davey, the Libs Dems spokesman for home affairs, blamed ministers for failing to make necessary reforms.
“Our prisons are fit to bursting and this is leading to horrific incidents of self-harm and violence,” he said.
“The government’s inability to get a grip on this issue is condemning prisoners and staff alike to suffer in miserable conditions, creating a vicious cycle.”
They are just locked up in a stinking cell for 22 hours at a time
When Chris Grayling became justice minister in 2012 he promised a “rehabilitation revolution.”
But his reign at the department saw a series of cuts that demoralized the prison workforce.
Prison reform charities and the Prison Officers Association have criticized the government for failing to make any meaningful changes to allow reform inmates, prevent reoffending or reduce prison numbers.
Responding to the latest stats on violence, Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Prisons are in such a terrible state that there are limited ways in which people can display distress, frustration and anger.”
“They are just locked up in a stinking cell for 22 hours at a time.”
Violence against our dedicated staff will never be tolerated
Justice Secretary David Lidington said: “Our prison staff work incredibly hard and I am under no illusions about the challenges they face.
“More officers on the wings will improve the safety of our prisons. That is why we are investing £100 million to boost the front line. We have already recruited 1,290 extra prison officers over the past year – taking us over half way to our target – but we won’t stop there.”
Lidington said the department had also invested £2million in body-worn cameras for prison officers.
“Violence against our dedicated staff will never be tolerated which is why I am supporting a bill to increase sentences for those who attack emergency workers, including prison officers,” he added. “I have been clear that it will take time, but I am determined to tackle the issues that undermine prison safety.”
The bill to increase sentences for those found guilty of attacking emergency workers was introduced by Labour MP Chris Bryant.