16 May 2016

Violence and disorder rising in prisons

The safety of prisons in England and Wales is getting worse, with deaths, self-harm, violence and disorder continuing to rise.


A report by MPs on the Justice Select Committee today calls on the Government to draw up an immediate action plan as previous measures have had little impact.

The committee’s chair Bob Neill said serious assaults went up by almost a third in 2015; there were nearly 2,000 jail fires – up 57 per cent; and incidents of hostage taking and concerted indiscipline had reached “unprecented levels” of 30-40 times a month, according to the Prison Officers’ Association.

Figures recently released by the MoJ revealed riot squads were being deployed to prisons at least once a week.

The committee found one major issue is staff retention, where despite recruiting 2,250 extra staff last year, the net gain was only 440 officers.

Another is the availability of new psychoactive substances (legal highs), despite outlawing posession. But the commitee notes the prevalence of staff corruption – 250 were sacked in the last quarter of 2015.

Channel 4 News understands in some prisons, staff are being paid £800 a time to smuggle in drugs like Spice and Black Mambo.

The report comes two days before the Justice Secretary Michael Gove is due to unveil a major package of prison reforms in the Queen’s Speech focussing on education.

But the committee warns that unless the trends in escalating violence and disorder are reversed, wider changes will be undermined.

Prisons Minister Andrew Selous admits they “must do better”, adding: “This report demonstrates the very serious challenges facing the prison service and shows how badly prison reform is needed.”

Follow @simonisrael on Twitter