Call on Johnson to invest in prisons

25 Jul 19

Record highs in prison assault and self harm levels in England and Wales have sparked calls for new prime minister Boris Johnson to invest in prison safety.

In the year to March 2019, 57,968 incidents of self-harm were recorded – an increase of 24% from the year before, according to Ministry of Justice figure released today.

There were also record highs in incidents of assault on inmates which peaked at 34,425 over the same period – an 11% increase on the year before.

Assaults on staff also soared by 15% on the previous year to 10,311, representing a new record high. 

Self-inflicted deaths rose by 6% in the year to June 2019, from 81 to 86, equating to one self-inflicted death in prison every four days.

Director of the Reform think-tank Charlotte Pickles called the figures “unacceptably high”.

“Our new prime minister has presented himself as tough on crime. But the most effective way to cut crime is to reduce reoffending. That means investing in prison safety and rehabilitation to help offenders turn their lives around.

“It also means keeping prison as a last resort. Reoffending costs society £18bn a year.

“It would be a grave and costly mistake to not proceed with David Gauke’s proposal to scrap short-term prison sentences, which exacerbate reoffending.”

Boris Johnson has expressed his intention to reduce crime by vowing to put 20,000 more police on the streets.

But reports suggest he is keen to scrap the plans put forward by Gauke in February.

Deborah Coles, director of the charity Inquest, said: “Deaths, self-harm, impoverished regimes and conditions are the daily reality of the prison system.

“The new justice secretary must act upon what are clear solutions – tackle sentencing policy, reduce the prison population and redirect resources to community health and welfare services.

“This however requires bold and decisive action at a political and institutional level, not more empty words.”

Read Kim Thomas’ feature for PF on the state of UK prisons.

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