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Self-harm at record level in Rochester Prison

By Rachel Dixon

Self-harm incidents in a Kent prison hit their highest level on record last year, new figures show.

It follows a violent trend across England and Wales’s prisons, where deaths, assaults and self-harm incidents were all at record levels last year.

Prisons minister Rory Stewart said figures were “unacceptably high”, and warned the effort required to return long-term stability to the prison estate should not be underestimated.

Self harm incidents in Rochester Prison reached their highest level on record in 2018
Self harm incidents in Rochester Prison reached their highest level on record in 2018

In Rochester Prison, 289 self-harm cases were recorded in 2018, with 55 inmates referred to hospital.

This is up from 219 during the previous year and is the highest figure since incidents started being recorded in 2004.

In 2013, there were 118 incidents of self-harm recorded, meaning a 145% increase in five years.

The numbers also reveal that there were 343 assaults in Rochester in 2018, a 156% increase on 2013.

In total, 28 were defined as serious, including sexual assaults and those where victims required hospital in-patient treatment.

Across England and Wales, 325 deaths were recorded in prisons in 2018, up from 295 the previous year.

In Rochester, two prisoners died in 2018.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “These figures reveal the sheer scale of the challenge to transform a prison system that has been overburdened and under-resourced for years.

"Change is happening, but it is like trying to turn around an oil tanker.

“These figures reveal the sheer scale of the challenge to transform a prison system that has been overburdened and under-resourced for years..." - Frances Crook, Howard League for Penal Reform

“I welcome the Government’s efforts to reduce violence, including recruiting more staff to increase numbers and refresh the workforce, but fundamental reform is being stymied by the lack of parliamentary time available for legislation.”

“I believe the will is there among ministers to make prisons safe and to reduce their unnecessary use, but in the end, lives can only be saved and violence reduced if the nettle of reform is grasped.”

Mr Stewart said: “Violence and self-harm in prisons remains unacceptably high, but I’m pleased at these early signs that we are making progress.

“It’s particularly encouraging to see a quarterly drop in violence, the first in two years. Our dedicated prison staff deserve enormous credit and I want to thank them all for their tireless work.

“There is still much to do, however, and no one should underestimate the effort required to return long-term stability to the prison estate.”

Across prisons in England and Wales, more than 34,000 assaults were recorded in 2018, an increase of 16% on the previous year.

Self-harm also increased by 25%, with nearly 56,000 cases in 2018.

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