Ministry of Justice announces tougher rules on prison violence
New measures will be taken to address violence in prisons and young offenders institutions, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced today.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Association of Chief Police Officers are assisting in providing “clear guidance” to the prison service on how to combat violence against other prisoners as well as the staff.
Government figures show a dramatic increase in the number of assaults, particularly those specifically against prison staff.
Under the new scheme it will be made easier for the CPS to issue consecutive sentences to violent prisoners. The prisons will provide and promote the use of victims’ personal statements to allow the casualty to describe the crime and its impact on them better.
Minister for prisons Andrew Selous claims that the new measures will “ensure that those that attack staff are prosecuted and fully brought to justice”.
Selous said: “We have always had a complex and challenging prison population but are taking appropriate steps to ensure that we carefully manage the increased levels of violence.”
The government bulletin on safety in custody disclosed that the number of assaults in prisons and young offenders institutions increased by 10% in the year leading up to June 2014 – from 14,045 to 15,441 – with nearly 3,500 of incidents targeting prison staff.
The number of serious assaults – incidents that left victims visibly injured or in need of medical treatment – increased more drastically, with statistics showing a 32% rise from 1,377 to 1,817 overall. The number of serious assaults against staff went from 300 to 395.
Attorney general Jeremy Wright emphasised that the prison officers’ safety is top priority. He said: “The prison officers deserve the greatest clarity and the best protection we can give them.”
However, criminal justice charity the Howard League for Penal Reform believes that new measures will have little effect in the face of current prison conditions.
Campaign director of the charity Andrew Neilson said: “There are already measures in place to deal with these offenders. Prisons have faced steep budget cuts resulting in staff shortages and until we address that we will not be able to fully tackle violence behind bars.”
The charity’s chief executive Frances Crook blamed much of the violence on poor living conditions for prisoners.
Crook said: “They don’t get out of the cell, and these are young men who have lots of energy, and you’re just asking them to lie idle on a bunk for months on end. As one prison officer said to me, if you treat people like that they come out fighting.”
Thomas Rhys Jones