Prison statistics reported in June this year by the Howard league for Penal reform suggest the following:
- 30% rise in ‘self inflicted’ deaths.
- A dramatic increase in the number of women who took their own lives – 11 compared with only one during the preceding year.
- The quarter between April and June 2016 recorded the highest figures for self-harm (9505, of which 665 led to attendances at hospital), 6086 assaults, including 1,540 assaults on staff.
- Number of prisons awarded the worst possible rating has doubled in the last year.
- Number of murders in prison over the last 2 years is more than the previous 8 years put together.
- Budget cuts meant that prison officer numbers fell from 24,000 in 2010 to just over 14,000 by 2014
‘Prisons are not only becoming more dangerous, they are becoming more dangerous more quickly.’ Could it be because mental health issues continue to dominate the police custody world as officers strive to make detention a better and kinder experience for individuals suffering from a crisis. Without proper support from and liason with Mental health services, these individuals land up on the streets or in deeper trouble.
Statements of difficult predicaments from National Custody Seminar, September 2016 :
“You can be dealing with a detainee who is ready for release, and they say to the custody sergeant ‘as soon as I walk out of here, I’m going to jump under a train’ or hang themselves, or create some horrible outcome.”
“The custody officer is then of course faced with a very difficult problem to solve. If they are telling you and you’ve got no reason to disbelieve that they may kill themselves or self-harm, what do you do? Do you let them go? How long do you follow them for?”
“Some officers have tried to detain people for their own good because they can’t rely on the Mental Health Act. Common sense tells you it’s the right thing to do, but the law says you are breaking it. I think that’s a loophole that needs to be sorted out and addressed.”
The deteriorating statistics could surely be a reflection of 2 key services starved of resources trying to look after vulnerable people – Mental Health and Police services.