Suicide, self-harm, stabbings and riots – prisons reach crisis point

Prison Violencesource: The Guardian
published: 12 November 2016

A dozen of the country’s jails now have such chronic staff shortages they are having to draft in officers from other prisons to help maintain order.

The staff shortage has forced some jails into locking prisoners in their cells for extended periods, especially at weekends. Anger at the time they were spending in their cells was cited as a major factor behind last weekend’s riot at Bedford prison. The shortages are also a significant factor in the rise in prison suicides, according to experts.

On Saturday it was confirmed that 99 people have taken their lives this year in prisons in England and Wales.

“This year has seen the highest number of self-inflicted deaths in prison on record,” said Deborah Coles, director of Inquest, the charity that monitors deaths in custody. “This unacceptable death toll reflects the desperate reality of overcrowded, dehumanising and violent prison conditions and the failure of prisons to protect those in their care.”

The Prison Officers’ Association (POA) said that the National Offender Management Service, which oversees the country’s prisons, has classed 12 jails as “red sites”, meaning they do not have enough staff to operate a standard regime. A similar number are classed as “amber sites”, indicating they are also suffering acute staffing issues. The POA told the Observer it estimated around 35% of the country’s prisons were experiencing some form of staffing problem.

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