Prisons: Safety

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 21st January 2022.

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Photo of Ellie Reeves Ellie Reeves Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what safety metrics are used in (a) private and (b) public prison key performance indicators; and what definition of serious assault is used for key performance indicators in (i) private and (ii) public prisons.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Minister for Afghan resettlement

The Department publishes statistics on deaths, self-harm and assaults in prison custody in England and Wales in the quarterly Safety in Custody statistics at

Overall rates of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults and assaults on staff have also featured in recent years as metrics in the prison performance framework, alongside scores from HMIP Healthy Prison Tests, Measuring the Quality of Prisoner Life (MQPL) surveys and HMPPS risk management audits in relation to safety. These metrics apply to both public sector and contracted establishments.

The prison performance framework provides a balanced suite of metrics covering all areas of prison operations. The framework is reviewed annually to ensure it continues to meet HMPPS priorities. It is used as part of the formal performance assessment to derive overall prison performance ratings that are published annually. Because of COVID-19, the ratings were last published in July 2020 covering the period 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020 at

HMPPS statistics cover both public sector and contracted establishments and the same definitions apply to all. An assault is defined as serious if:

  • it is a sexual assault;
  • it results in detention in outside hospital as an in-patient;
  • it requires medical treatment for concussion or internal injuries; and/or
  • the victim incurs any of the following injuries: a fracture, scald or burn; stabbing; crushing; extensive or multiple bruising; black eye; broken nose; lost or broken tooth; cuts requiring suturing; bites; and temporary or permanent blindness.

When an assault results in one of these types of injury, it is classified as serious even if the actual harm was superficial.

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