Our prisons keep getting more violent. Highest number of assaults on record
Thursday’s (26 October 2017) Safety in Custody Statistics make for predictably grim reading with self harm and assaults reaching record highs.
The only glimmer of hope is that HMPPS focus on suicides has seen a drop in the number of prisoners killing themselves. Tragically, there were still 77 suicides last year (compared to 110 the previous year).
The latest figures cover deaths for the year to September 2017 and assaults and self harm for the year to June 2017.
Here are the main points:
Deaths in prison
In the 12 months to September 2017 there were 300 deaths in prison custody, a decrease of 7% from 324 in the previous year, at a rate of 3.5 deaths per 1,000 prisoners. The most recent quarter saw the lowest number of total deaths since the three months to December 2015. Quarterly death figures should be considered with caution due to greater volatility and the potential for seasonal effects.
There were 77 apparent self-inflicted deaths, down 30% from 110 in the previous year.
In the 12 months to June 2017, there were 41,103 reported incidents of self-harm (a rate of 482 per 1,000 prisoners), up 12% on the previous year. The number of self-harm incidents requiring hospital attendance increased by 9% on the previous year to 2,833 while the proportion of incidents that required hospital attendance remained broadly similar at 6.9%. The number of self-harm incidents and those requiring hospital attendance are both the highest ever recorded.
In the 12 months to June 2017, there were 27,193 assault incidents (a staggering rate of 319 incidents per 1,000 prisoners), an increase of 14% on the previous year, and the highest level in the time series. In the latest quarter, there were 7,115 assaults, up 6% from the three months to March 2017.
There were 19,678 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in the 12 months to June 2017 (a rate of 231 per 1,000 prisoners), up 10% on the previous year, and a record high. The latest quarter also saw a 7% increase in the number of incidents, reaching a record high of 5,155.
Assaults on staff reached a record high of 7,437 in the 12 months to June 2017 (a rate of 87 per 1,000 prisoners), and are up 25% on the previous year. In the most recent quarter, assaults on staff rose by 9%, reaching a record high of 2,011 incidents.
Not only are these figures shocking in themselves, they remain (in my opinion) the best barometer of the overall state of our prison system. Only when we see a prolonged trend in the fall of self-harm and assaults will we be able to feel confident that our prisons are beginning to become a more acceptable place for prisoners to live and staff to work.
I attended this conference Reducing violence and deaths in prison’ Thursday 19 October. a joint conference with Runnymede Trust and the University of Greenwich, the discussions was informative.
The following panel discussions:
The following panel discussions:
- How can we reduce deaths of people with mental health issues in custody?
- How can we reduce use of force in relation to BME prisoners?
- How can culturally-aware interventions reduce re-offending rates of BME prisoners?
- What role can prison officers play in reducing violence and deaths in prisons?
Some background context to the conference:
The levels of self-harm, violence, use of force and self-inflicted deaths have increased substantially since 2012, with disproportionate impacts on Black and ethnic minority prisoners. Why do BME prisoners experience more negative outcomes in custody compared to other groups, and what can we do about it? In the last 4 years.
The Runnymede Trust and the University of Greenwich have been commissioned by government to investigate issues around mental health and deaths in custody, use of force and restraint and disproportionate negative outcomes for BME prisoners.
Professor Darrick Jolliffe (University of Greenwich) and Dr Zubaida Haque (The Runnymede Trust) have been leading on this work and working closely with Keiran Manners (Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality) within prisons.
Nick Hardwick & Frances Cook
CAMPAIGN ENDING THIS WEEK.
Steve Read is introducing a new law excessive use of prisoners with mental health. Please sign the campaignforSeni,s Law https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/we-back-seni-s-law Ending this week . Seni Lewis died in hospital after he was pinned face-down by 11 police officers until he stopped breathing. We must stop the use of excessive force that killed Seni and too many other mental health. patients like him. Steve Reed MP is bringing a new law to Parliament. It will create accountability and transparency in the mental health services and tackle the unconscious bias that means too many members of our black community are treated differently....
Have prisons become a dangerous place.
Disproportionality, safety and mental health in British prisons
I recorded Audio of the day
Poor treatment of prisoners is directly linked to self-harm and suicide, according to research from the University of Greenwich.
Darrick Jolliffe, Professor of criminology, found that preventative policies were based on staffing levels that no longer exist.
He says: "Those most at risk in prison are falling through the gaps. Trained and confident staff who are provided with the time to be true agents of support and rehabilitation are desperately needed.
"Prison officers rarely have the time to develop the relationships with those in prison needed to truly provide support to help prevent self-harm and self-inflicted deaths. Prison officer training on the complex area of mental health is essentially absent.
Greenwich researchers working with the Runnymede Trust, a race equality thinktank, also found black and Muslim offenders are more likely to be badly treated in prison.
They looked at the treatment of male black and minority ethnic (BAME) prisoners, surveying over 340 inmates across four prisons.
The study found that black or Muslim prisoners were twice as likely (40%) of being mistreated, such as having restraints used against them and being put into segregation in past six months – compared with white prisoners (21%).
The university recently hosted a conference with Runnymede which looked at ways of reducing deaths in prison, and a reduction in force on ethnic minority prisoners.
The recent government report which said ethnic minorities are more likely than their white counterparts to be both suspected of and victims of crime was the backdrop for the event.
As well as Professor Jolliffe, speakers included: Steve Reed, the MP Croydon North, who is introducing a law to end excessive use of force on mental health patients; Frances Crook, from the Howard League for Penal Reform; Professor Nicholas Hardwick, former Chief Inspector of HMP; Patrick Vernon, from Black Thrive, a partnership for black wellbeing; Steve Gillan, General Secretary of the Prison Officers Association; Helen Arnold, of the University of Suffolk; Dr Zubaida Haque, a research associate at the Runnymede Trust; Deborah Coles, from INQUEST, Keiran Manners, from HM Prisons; and Professor David Maguire, Vice-Chancellor of Greenwich.