Prisons: Crimes of Violence and Self-harm

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 14th February 2019.

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Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps his Department is taking to reduce the number of (a) deaths, (b) assaults and (c) cases of self-harm in prisons.

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

Prisons should be places of safety and reform. Violence is never acceptable, and we recognise that the current level of suicide and self-harm is too high.

With this in mind, the Government is taking unprecedented action, including:

  • investing in over 4,300 additional staff since October 2015;
  • introducing new suicide and self-harm prevention training, which has already reached over 24,000 staff;
  • improving support for prisoners in their early days and weeks and rolling out a ‘key worker’ scheme which ensures each prisoner has dedicated support from a particular prison officer;
  • funding the Samaritans to provide their valuable Listeners Scheme for a further three years;
  • improving the ACCT case management process for those identified as at risk of self-harm or suicide.
  • investing an extra £70 million to improve safety, security and decency, and equipping officers with rigid-bar handcuffs, PAVA incapacitant spray and body-worn cameras to help prevent serious harm to staff and prisoners when dealing with violent incidents and assaults; and
  • tackling the drugs that we know are fuelling much of the violence in custody - introducing new x-ray scanners, drug-detection dogs and dedicated search teams.

We are also committed to taking action to improve prisoners’ health. Since April 2018, a new National Partnership Agreement has been in place, marking an even stronger level of co-operation and cohesiveness between agencies that influence the policy, commissioning and delivery of prison health services. The agreement sets out how the partnership (DHSC, NHS England, MoJ, HMPPS and Public Health England) will work together to deliver its three core objectives. It agrees ten key priority areas for 2018-2021, including reducing incidents of self-harm and self-inflicted deaths in the adult secure estate.

In addition, NHS England has published a new Service Specification for Integrated Substance Misuse Treatment Services in Prisons in England, which brings greater focus to the treatment of users of psychoactive substances and makes stronger links to mental health.

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