Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 7th March 2018.

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Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Labour/Co-operative, Leeds North West

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what recent assessment he has made of trends in the level of violence and self-harm in prisons.

Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Labour/Co-operative, Leeds North West

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effect of the number of (a) prisoners and (b) staff on levels of violence in prisons.

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

Many complex factors are linked to violence in prisons . Prominent among them is the use of drugs the debt often associated with it. Additionally, violence may be linked to membership of gangs, whilst some violence will be the result of frustration at the physical condition of the prison environment and lack of opportunities to be engaged in purposeful activity. There is only limited evidence to suggest that an increased number of prisoners in a prison (known as crowding) is a direct cause of violence. The skills of staff are more important, and play a critical role in maintaining order.

The Secretary of State has announced a range of measures to deal with the problem of drugs in prison. They include a £14m investment in intelligence and organised crime teams; new technology to download data from illicit mobile phones, and changes to the security categorisation of prisoners who continue to commit these offences in prison.

We are also investing in 2,500 more staff in order to deliver consistent, purposeful regimes. We are providing training to both new and existing staff to equip them to take on the new key worker role, in which they will provide more effective challenge and support to prisoners.

Our latest published safety statistics show that levels of violence and self-harm are at record highs, which is why improving prison safety remains a top priority. Our Prison Safety Programme includes a comprehensive set of actions to address both violence and self-harm.

We have invested in 5,600 body-worn cameras, which will provide high-quality evidence to support prosecutions brought against prisoners. They are being deployed alongside staff training to support better interaction and relationships. We have also introduced a new case management system for violent prisoners, known as the Challenge, Support and Intervention Plan.

A comprehensive roll out of improved suicide and self-harm prevention training has already reached over 14,300 staff. We are making improvements to the support that we offer to prisoners in their early days in custody, and to the Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork case management process for those identified as being at risk. We are also renewing our partnership with the Samaritans, who provide the valuable Listeners Scheme.

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