LEVELS of suicides, assaults and self-harm in prisons all reached record highs last year, leading to renewed calls for an urgent overhaul of a system in crisis.
Government statistics published yesterday showed that there were 354 deaths behind bars in England and Wales last year, including 119 which were apparently self-inflicted.
The number of assumed suicides — equivalent to two every week — represented a jump of nearly a third on the previous year.
At the same time self-harm incidents rose by 23 per cent to 37,784, while there were 25,049 assaults in the 12 months to September — a rise of 31 per cent on the previous year.
There were also 6,430 assaults on staff in the 12 months to September 2016, up 40 per cent. Of these, 761 were serious, the MoJ said.
The Prison Officers Association, which represents staff across the nation’s jails, has repeatedly warned that the system is in crisis and more experienced officers are leaving the service due to the unacceptable strain imposed upon them.
Prison Reform Trust charity director Peter Dawson said reducing the jail population is the “only realistic way to make our prisons safe in the foreseeable future.”
Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said: “The prison system under the Tories is failing.
“Deaths, self-harm and assaults are at record levels. Prison staff are demoralised and leaving the service in droves.
“The Conservatives have caused this prisons crisis, but all we hear from the Justice Secretary are excuses.
“There is an urgent need for a crisis management plan before we see more prison riots.”