‘National emergency’ at Durham prison as assault numbers double

Durham Prison.
Durham Prison.

Assaults in Durham Prison have doubled in five years, with prison reform campaigners declaring the situation a “national emergency”.

The rise in attacks on staff and prisoners, revealed in figures from the Ministry of Justice, shows the scale of the task prison officers are facing.

Of the 303 assaults recorded in 2017, 69 were on prison staff. And 35 assaults were defined as serious, a category which includes sexual assaults and those where victims required hospital in-patient treatment.

In 2012, 122 assaults were recorded, meaning a five-year increase of 148%.

The numbers also reveal that 310 cases of self-harm were recorded in Durham last year, an increase of 100% on 2012. Across prisons in England and Wales, nearly 30,000 assaults were recorded last year, more than double the number in 2012. Self-harm also increased by 92% over the same five-year period, with nearly 45,000 cases in 2017.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This shameful rise in violence and self-injury is the direct result of policy decisions to allow the number of people behind bars to grow unchecked while starving prisons of resources.

“This is a national emergency, and the government must respond boldly and urgently. Positive steps to reduce the prison population would save lives, protect staff, and prevent more people being swept into deeper currents of crime and despair.”

Three self-inflicted deaths were recorded in Durham in 2017, a definition which includes suicides and accidental deaths through self-harm.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “The levels of violence, suicide and self-harm in our prisons are far too high and we are taking urgent action to address these problems.”