Lewes Prison assaults increase by 45 per cent, says watchdog

Assaults at Lewes Prison rose by 45 per cent on the previous year, the prison watchdog has said.
Assaults at Lewes Prison rose by 45 per cent on the previous year, the prison watchdog has said.

Assaults at Lewes Prison rose by 45 per cent from 2014 to 2015 according to statistics recently published by the UK’s prison watchdog.

The figures, which were released last month as part of HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ annual report, show there were 154 assaults at the prison in 2015 up from 106 assaults in 2014.

The rise comes as the watchdog’s new chief inspector Peter Clarke warned UK prisons are becoming ‘unacceptably violent and dangerous’.

Mr Clarke said much of the violence in prisons came from the spread of new psychoactive substances – a group of synthetic drugs formerly known as ‘legal highs.’

He said: “Despite the sterling efforts of many who work in the Prison Service at all levels, there is a simple and unpalatable truth about far too many of our prisons. They have become unacceptably violent and dangerous places.

“A large part of this violence is linked to the harm caused by new psychoactive substances which are having a dramatic and destabilising effect in many of our prisons.

“The effects of these drugs can be unpredictable and extreme. Their use can be linked to attacks on other prisoners and staff, self-inflicted deaths, serious illness and life-changing self-harm.”

He added that the instability caused by the drug is restricting the ability of staff to get prisoners safely to and from education, training and other activities.

Nationally the number of assaults rose by 26.5 per cent from 16,219 in 2014 to 20,518 in 2015. Serious assaults rose by 31 per cent, up to nearly 3,000.

Reports of self-harm by prisoners also increased nationally with 32,000 incidents recorded in 2015, an increase of 25 per cent on the previous calendar year

This national rise wasn’t found at Lewes Prison however, where self-harming decreased to its lowest levels since 2007.

Reports of self-harm at Lewes fell from 129 reports in 2014 to 85 in 2015 – a change of 34 per cent.

Mr Clarke said: “Despite the troubles that afflict prisons at the moment, there are large numbers of dedicated, courageous, skilful and experienced staff who care deeply about the safety of those in custody, who want to improve the conditions of detention, and are focused on the rehabilitation of prisoners.”

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