More than 300 people have died while in prisons in England and Wales during the last year, a rise of almost 20 percent.
The new data, released by the Ministry of Justice, looks at the safety of prisoners and staff. The statistics show self-harm soared by 24 percent compared to the previous 12 months, and assaults on staff rose by a staggering 38 percent.
Both prisoners and prison staff are entitled to a safe environment as part of their human rights. Article 2 of the Human Rights Convention protects our Right to Life, while Article 3 protects us from inhuman and degrading treatment. The state has a positive duty to ensure that those rights are protected. The dramatic rise in self-harm, assaults and deaths will cause concern that this duty is not being fulfilled.
The figures analysed: deaths in custody rise by almost 20 percent
Overall, 344 people died in custody in the year leading up to March 2017. This compares to 290 people in the previous year – a rise of 54 people, or 19 percent. It’s the second highest rate recorded since 2008.
Of these deaths, 199 were of natural causes, a rise of 21 percent on the previous year, something which is thought to be due to an ageing prison population. There were also 113 self-inflicted deaths, up by 11 on the year before.
Alarmingly, the suicide rate in prisons has more than doubled since 2013.
However, the number of homicides has gone down, dropping from 6 in 2016 to 3 this year. 29 deaths were recorded as ‘other’, 24 of which were awaiting further information so that they could be classified.
Self-harm reaches an all time high
Self-harm has also soared, with the figures at the highest ever recorded. In the 12 months up to December 2016 there were 40,161 reported incidents, an increase of 24 percent on the previous year. This works out at more than 100 incidents a day. While the number of these requiring hospital visits increased by 21 percent to 2,740, this was broadly a similar percentage of all self-harm incidents for the year.
All in all, 11,008 prisoners self harmed, up 16 percent on the previous year. This means those who self harmed did so on average 3.6 times.
The data also varied greatly between men and women. There were 399 incidents per 1,000 men (an increase of 30 percent compared to last year) and 1,987 incidents per 1,000 women (an increase of 4 percent). Men were also four times more likely to end up hospitalised as a result of self harm.
Assaults on staff up by 38 percent
Assaults on both prison staff and prisoners also rose dramatically. In the 12 months leading up to December 2016 serious assaults on staff rose by 26 percent to 789. Overall there were 6,844 assaults on staff. Prisoner on prisoner attacks also rose, with 19,088 assaults, a rise of 23 percent. Of these 2,764 were classed as serious.
An assault was deemed to be serious if it was a sexual assault, required the victim to be taken to an outside hospital as in-patient, or left the victim with concussion or internal injuries, a fracture, scald or burn. Stabbing, extensive or multiple bruising, black eyes, broken noses and lost and broken teeth were also included as were cuts requiring suturing, bites, and temporary or permanent blindness.
Both the Government and penal reform charities will now be looking closely at these figures to work out what measures need to be taken to address what is clearly a serious issue.
Want to read more on this?
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