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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Calls to reduce prison population as suicide, assaults and self-harm stats soar

The scale of the prisons safety crisis has been laid bare as official figures revealed suicides, assaults and self-harm behind bars have all surged to new record levels.

There were 354 deaths behind bars in England and Wales last year, including 119 which were apparently self-inflicted.

Self-harm incidents jumped by nearly a quarter, while there were more than 25,000 assaults in the 12 months to September – equivalent to nearly 70 attacks every day.

Officers are also facing a rising torrent of violence, with the number of assaults on staff rising by two fifths.

The figures sparked warnings that the crisis is “spiralling out of control” and calls for the prison population to be reduced.

Justice Secretary Liz Truss said she has taken action to stabilise the estate but warned the issues would not be fixed in weeks or months.

The statistics, released by the Ministry of Justice, showed:
:: In the 12 months to September 2016 there were 25,049 assault incidents – an increase of 31 per cent on the previous year
:: There were 6,430 assaults on staff – up 40 per cent on the previous year. Of these, 761 were serious
:: Self-harm incidents rose by 23 per cent to a record level of 37,784
:: The rate of self-inflicted deaths has doubled since 2012
:: There were three apparent homicides in 2016, down from the record high of eight in the previous year.

The latest findings underline the scale of the task facing ministers as they attempt to reform the prisons system.

Last year thousands of staff walked out in protest over health and safety concerns, while a spate of serious disturbances erupted.

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said reducing the jail population is the “only realistic way to make our prisons safe in the foreseeable future”.

“Another record low in standards of safety should leave no-one in any doubt of the need to relieve the pressure on our failing prison system,” he said.

“We know that the worst outcomes happen in overcrowded prisons.”

Picture: File photo dated 17/01/14 of a door being closed by a prison guard, as official figures show that the numbers of deaths, self-harm incidents and assaults in prisons in England and Wales have increased to new record levels. (Peter Macdiarmid/PA).