POA Press Release: Smoke and mirrors on self harm and assault figures

The following was issues as a press release by the Prison Officers Association (POA), on 16 June 2014:

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice The Rt. Honourable Chris Grayling MP has been quoted in the Telegraph 14th June 2014 following a radio interview, claiming that self harm and assaults in the prison system have fallen over the last two years.

The POA don’t expect the Minister to know absolutely everything that is occurring in the day to day running of the National Offender Management Service but we expect him to be briefed appropriately.

Smoke and mirrors spring to mind after criticism from the POA, Chief Inspector of Prisons and the Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan for raising the Operational Capacity of an already overcrowded prison service.

For the record, in 2011 15,829 male prisoners self harmed. In 2012 16,567 male prisoners self harmed and in 2013, 17,213 male prisoners self harmed. This is a dramatic increase and part of the problem is overcrowding, budget cuts and low staffing levels. It is true that female prisoner self harming has fallen from 8,819 in 2011 to 5,970 in 2013 but the female estate have not undergone the same benchmarking process as the male estate. Those female establishments will go through the same process.

The public deserve to know the truth and in the male population self harm has increased not decreased as suggested by the Secretary of State.

Self harm related hospital attendances in the same period have increased from 1,533 in 2011 to 1,594 in 2013.

In relation to prisoner on prison officer assaults in the same period, 2011 to 2013 has risen from 3,132 to 3,148. Serious assaults on staff have risen from 273 in 2011 to 356 in 2013.

Official prisoner on prisoner figures are running at 14,125 but if you look back to 2003 this is a significant increase from 11,562. Serious assaults prisoner on prisoner have seen an increase in 2011 from 1,374 to 1,575 in 2013.

The Secretary of State is not accurate with his claims on self harm and assaults.

The POA as a trade union has been warning for several years that the prison closure programme along with officer redundancies and a climbing population is a recipe for disaster. If the Minister chooses not to listen to this experienced trade union, he should at least pay attention to the Chief Inspector of Prisons Mr Nick Hardwick.

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