BY MIGUEL RODRIGUEZ
Hundreds of self-harm incidents were recorded at Wormwood Scrubs prison in 2018, new data reveals. It follows a violent trend across England and Wales’s prisons, where deaths, assaults and self-harm incidents were all at record levels last year.
The prisons minister, Rory Stewart, said the figures were “unacceptably high”, and warned that the effort required to return long-term stability to the prison estate should not be underestimated.
New Ministry of Justice data shows that there were 272 self-harm incidents at Wormwood Scrubs in 2018. That’s down from 292 in 2017, the year with the highest number since data started being recorded in 2004.
But in 2013 there were 81 incidents of self-harm – a 236 per cent increase over five years. There were 14 inmates referred to hospital for self-harm injuries in 2018. The numbers also reveal that there were 447 assaults at Wormwood Scrubs in 2018, 151 per cent more than in the same period in 2013
. Of those, 140 were assaults on prison staff, while 316 involved only prisoners. In total, 40 were defined as serious, including sexual assaults, and those where victims required hospital in-patient treatment.
Across England and Wales, 325 deaths were recorded in prisons in 2018 – up from 295 the previous year. At Wormwood Scrubs, six prisoners died in 2018 – three from self-harm.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “These figures reveal the sheer scale of the challenge to transform a prison system that has been overburdened and under-resourced for years. Change is happening, but it is like trying to turn around an oil tanker.
“I welcome the Government’s efforts to reduce violence, including recruiting more staff to increase numbers and refresh the workforce, but fundamental reform is being stymied by the lack of parliamentary time available for legislation.
“I believe the will is there among ministers to make prisons safe and to reduce their unnecessary use, but in the end, lives can only be saved and violence reduced if the nettle of reform is grasped.”
Mr Stewart said: “Violence and self-harm in prisons remains unacceptably high, but I’m pleased at these early signs that we are making progress. “It’s particularly encouraging to see a quarterly drop in violence, the first in two years. Our dedicated prison staff deserve enormous credit and I want to thank them all for their tireless work.
“There is still much to do, however, and no one should underestimate the effort required to return long-term stability to the prison estate.”
Across prisons in England and Wales, more than 34,000 assaults were recorded in 2018, an increase of 16 per cent on the previous year. Self-harm also increased, by 25 per cent, with nearly 56,000 cases in 2018.