Prison violence may be higher than reported, report says

Lewes Prison
Lewes Prison

Prison violence could be much higher than reported according to a damning new report on safety behind bars in England.

The report, published on Wednesday (April 19) by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), raises serious concerns over the lack of safety for inmates and staff in prisons in England. Its authors claim causes include: ‘prison violence spiralling out of control, poor regimes and chronic overcrowding.’

It also raises concerns about ‘systemic and structural weaknesses’ in the way prison violence is recorded, leading its authors to believe the true number of violent to be higher than official figures suggest.

According to latest figures violent incidents at Lewes Prison rose by 45 per cent between 2014 and 2015. Rising from 106 in 2014 to 154 in 2015. The figures were the highest for years and came alongside a national warning over ‘unacceptable levels of violence’ by prison chief inspector Peter Clarke.

However the CPT study, based on visits to HMP Pentonville and HMP Doncaster, suggests figures could be far higher nationally.

A spokesman for the CPT said: “While the number of recorded violent incidents at all prisons visited was alarmingly high, the CPT believes that these figures under-record the actual number of incidents and consequently fail to afford a true picture of the severity of the situation.

“The cumulative effect of certain systemic failings found is that none of the prisons visited could be considered safe for prisoners or staff. The CPT recommends that concrete measures be taken to bring prisons back under the effective control of staff, reversing the recent trends of escalating violence and that a far greater investment in preventing violence be undertaken.

“In particular, this requires a swift reinforcement of staffing levels to provide for a safe environment for prisoners and staff.”

Last November Lewes Prison staff held a demonstration as part of a national protest by members of the Prison Officers Association (POA) safety and staffing concerns. It followed an incident in October which was described as a riot by the POA. The union reported that staff were forced to retreat from the wing due to a “severe shortage of staff.”

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