Surge in violence in young offender institutions

Violence in young offender institutions has more than doubled over the past five years, figures published today by the Howard League for Penal Reform show.

Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults escalated by 58% in YOIs, as recorded acts of violence went up by nearly one-third in prisons in England and Wales.

Women’s self-harm rises

Self-harm also rose dramatically among female prisoners, making up more than half of all incidents even though women represent just 5% of the prison population.

Assaults on prison staff by inmates increased by 6% overall, with the number doubling in female prisons. Incidents of arson went up generally.

‘Tip of the iceberg’

Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the figures, obtained through parliamentary questions, represented “the tip of the iceberg” and suggested the real levels of assaults could be much higher.

“This shocking rise in violence is far above what might be expected as we lock up ever increasing numbers of men, women and children whose mental health problems and addictions will never be properly treated within our flooded and failing jails,” she said.

Crook hit out at the government’s plans to build five more prisons, each providing 1,500 new places.

“It is time for the government to look at wholesale reform of the penal system,” she said. “We should spend taxpayers’ money on programmes that work in reducing offending and make society safer.”

Alternatives to prison

The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health said the figures highlighted the need to improve health health services for prisoners and find alternatives to custody.

“Even a short spell in prison can be disastrous, especially for women and children,” chief executive Angela Greatley said. “Diverting those who have offended to robust community sanctions with effective mental health support can make all the difference to them and their families and make our communities safer.”

Related articles

Lord Bradley review puts onus on criminal justice to improve treatment of offenders with mental health problems

Overcrowding and lack of help blamed for prison death rate rise

Sainsbury Centre: Community sanctions not tackling mental illness




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