Home UK News Self-harm and violence significantly rising at women’s prisons

Self-harm and violence significantly rising at women’s prisons

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Women prison rise in self harm

According to data from the Ministry of Justice, rates of self-harm in women’s prisons have reached record highs, and assaults have also increased.

There were 16,140 incidents of self-harm in women’s prisons in England and Wales in 2022, a 37 percent increase from the previous year. It equates to five incidents per woman incarcerated and signifies that the incidence of self-harm among female detainees is currently ten times higher than that of male prisoners. In male prisons, self-inflicted injuries decreased by 6% annually.

In 2022, there were 1,343 assaults reported in women’s institutions, a 21 percent increase from the previous year. The number of assaults in men’s prisons increased by 3 percent. The assault rate in female prisons, at 419 per 1,000 inmates, is now substantially higher than in male prisons, at 255 per 1,000 inmates. However, assaults in male prisons were twice as likely to be categorised as “serious” – resulting in extensive injury or necessitating hospitalisation.

In the 12 months leading up to March, there were 322 prisoner fatalities, a 12 percent increase from the previous 12 months. 82 of these injuries were self-inflicted, compared to 79 in the previous year.

The figures, which were released on April 27 in the quarterly Safety in Custody Statistics, prompted charity leaders to issue warnings about overcrowding and staff shortages in institutions. Pia Sinha, who was the Prison Service official in charge of women’s prisons until she departed this year to become the chief executive officer of the Prison Reform Trust, stated, “More and more women with severe mental health needs are entering prison.” Undoubtedly, this has contributed to the alarming increase in self-harm among women in the women’s estate.

“Prison leaders must immediately prioritise the delivery of secure, consistent, and equitable regimens in prisons in order to address the underlying distress women are experiencing as a result of their incarceration. Health and justice must collaborate to ensure that viable alternatives to incarceration exist so that these women can receive the treatment and support they require.”

Andrea Coomber, chief executive officer of the Howard League for penal reform, referred to the statistics as “tragic” and stated, “A 37% increase in self-harm incidents in women’s prisons is genuinely alarming. Although the number of reported assaults is not yet as high as it was prior to the pandemic, it appears to be rising rapidly. With institutions becoming so overcrowded that inmates are being confined in police cells, the system is becoming progressively less secure.

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