Violence Soars In Overcrowded Jails

Violence in prisons has soared almost 600% in 10 years, according to official figures. The number of violent incidents spiralled from 2,342 in 1996 to 13,771 in 2005, Home Secretary John Reid disclosed in a letter to the Liberal Democrats.

Although the figures pre-date Mr Reid’s Home Office tenure, they come as he faces an overcrowding crisis felt by campaigners to be at least partly responsible for the rise.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said prison violence was a consequence of overcrowding.

She said: “Prison numbers have risen from 61,467 in 1997 to more than 80,000 today, with no proportionate rise in the number of prison staff, basic training cut back to just eight weeks and most governors moving on after less than two years in post.”

Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: “Ten years of Labour mismanagement of the prison and criminal justice system have left our prisons in crisis and the public at risk.

“If you keep putting people on an already crowded ship eventually the ship will start to sink. Prisons are so full they have become ineffective and increasingly dangerous. We need effective solutions.”

The figures, released to the Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg in response to a Parliamentary written answer, demonstrate an increase in violent incidents both between inmates and against prison staff.

They show there were 2,971 violent incidents against prison officers in 2005 compared with 551 in 1996. Violent incidents between prisoners were 10,800 in 2005 compared with 1,791 in 1996.

The Prison Service said the rate of serious assaults in prisons “may be stabilising” and that the increase could be due to improved recording procedures.