INCIDENTS of self-harm in prisons have reached a record high, new figures show.
There were 40,414 such incidents in the 12 months to March 2017 — meaning the rate has more than doubled since 2013.
The figures also show that 71 convicted criminals or suspects were mistakenly freed in 2016/17 — a rise of seven on the previous year and the highest number since current records started a decade ago.
There has also been a jump in violence, with 26,643 assaults recorded in the year to March, including a record 7,159 attacks on staff — equivalent to 20 every day.
Prison Officers Association general secretary Steve Gillan said: “My members have lost patience with the employer and government.
“They are fed up with being treated with disrespect, ignored and used as modern-day slaves as management try to paper over the cracks.
“We cannot permit the government and the employer to allow these unprecedented increases of violence to continue.”
Inquest, a group which campaigns against deaths in custody, urged the government not to become “complacent” following a slight fall in self-inflicted deaths in custody.
There were 97 such deaths in the year to March 2017.
“Levels of self-harm in prisons continue to rise and it is clear from these figures that prisons still struggle to ensure the safety and protection of those in their care,” Inquest director Deborah Coles said.
Prison Reform Trust director Peter Dawson warned that the “prison system is nowhere near being safe for those who live and work within it.”
Fifty-eight of the erroneous releases occurred from prison establishments while 13 were during escort or at courts.
Justice Secretary David Lidington claimed improving safety and security in prisons was his top priority.
He said: “These figures reinforce how crucial it is that we make progress as quickly as possible. I have seen firsthand the challenges our dedicated and hard-working prison staff face.”