Prison Officers: Crimes of Violence

Ministry of Justice written question – answered at on 21 October 2020.

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Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the trends in the number of assaults on prison officers since the publication of the Hutton report on Public Service Pensions in 2011.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

The level of violence in prisons is high and any assault against our hardworking prison staff is unacceptable. We are addressing this by giving all staff the tools and training they need to help reduce violence.

While violence fell in 2012, the year after the Hutton report, this steadily rose until 2019, but has now begin to level off – with a decrease by 15% in the last four quarters.

The causes of violence are complicated. The increase in the use of psychoactive substances in prisons since 2013 has been a significant factor in the previous increase in violence.

We have made significant investment to boost staff numbers and recruited more than 4,000 additional prison officers between October 2016 and December 2019. This has given us the capacity to implement the key worker role, allowing staff dedicated time to provide support to individual prisoners, helping us to deal with emerging threats and improve safety.

We work closely with the police and Crown Prosecution Service to bring those guilty of assaulting staff to justice. Additionally, as outlined in our Sentencing White Paper we will double the maximum sentence for assaulting an emergency worker from 12 months to two years.

We are also giving officers PAVA pepper spray and body-worn cameras to make their jobs safer and are spending £100 million to bolster prison security, clamping down on the weapons, drugs and mobile phones that fuel violence and crime behind bars. This will fund tough new measures including x-ray body scanners, baggage scanners and phone-blocking technology.

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