The number of people taking their own lives in prison has soared by 69% in a year, figures seen by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveal today (31 July).

Statistics published by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) show there were 88 suicides in the 12 months to the end of March 2014, compared with 52 in the previous 12 months.

Serious assaults on prison officers have increased by 38 per cent, and incidents of self-harm among men rose by 7 per cent to almost 17,500. Women accounted for 26 per cent of self-harm incidents despite making up only 5 per cent of the prison population.

The MoJ has identified 29 prisons whose overall performance is of “concern” or “serious concern”.

For the second year running, every probation trust in the country was classed as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. But these trusts were dissolved by the MoJ on 1 June 2014, despite the government’s own figures showing that reoffending is going down.

The figures were published less than a month after the Howard League revealed that the number of prison officers in England and Wales had been cut by 30 per cent.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:

Prison Bars by Andrew bardwell via Wikimedia Commons

By Andrew Bardwell

“Prisons are becoming places of extreme violence as men are caged with nothing to do all day, and in some terrible cases they have become death traps.

“The contrast with the probation service is stark, as the final year of more than a century of success at keeping the public safe is finally destroyed.

“The world has truly gone mad when prisons are getting more violent but have government support, and probation that reduces crime is being destroyed.”

Sadiq Khan MP, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, responding to Ministry of Justice statistics on the condition of prisons, said:

“On a day when Chris Grayling is throwing around desperate smears about the Labour Party, the Tories appear to be trying to use this as a smokescreen to hide how bad things have got in our prisons thanks to them.

“With the Conservative’s handling of the justice system increasingly mired in chaos, Chris Grayling should be spending his time getting grip of his failing department rather than using every trick in the book to try and distract people away from how bad things have got on their watch.

“Every day that goes by reinforces the truth about the Tories: they’re completely out of touch with no answers to the challenges facing Britain.”

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