‘National emergency’ as assault cases soar in Lewes Prison

Lewes Prison ... there were 195 attacks on staff and prisoners recorded in 2017
Lewes Prison ... there were 195 attacks on staff and prisoners recorded in 2017

Assaults in Lewes Prison have increased by 86 per cent in five years, with prison reform campaigners declaring the situation a “national emergency”.

The rise in attacks on staff and prisoners, revealed in figures from the Ministry of Justice, shows the scale of the task prison officers are facing.

Of the 195 assaults recorded in 2017, 52 were on prison staff. And 35 assaults were defined as serious, a category which includes sexual assaults and those where victims required hospital in-patient treatment.

In 2012, 105 assaults were recorded, meaning a five-year increase of 86 per cent.

The numbers also reveal that 430 cases of self-harm were recorded in Lewes last year, compared to just 110 in 2012.

Across prisons in England and Wales, nearly 30,000 assaults were recorded last year, more than double the number in 2012. Self-harm also increased by 92 per cent over the same five-year period, with nearly 45,000 cases in 2017.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This shameful rise in violence and self-injury is the direct result of policy decisions to allow the number of people behind bars to grow unchecked while starving prisons of resources.

“This is a national emergency, and the Government must respond boldly and urgently. Positive steps to reduce the prison population would save lives, protect staff, and prevent more people being swept into deeper currents of crime and despair.”

Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “The levels of violence, suicide and self-harm in our prisons are far too high and we are taking urgent action to address these problems.

“Assaults on our hardworking staff will never be tolerated. We are ensuring prison officers have the tools they need to do the job, rolling out body worn cameras, ‘police-style’ handcuffs and restraints, and trialling PAVA incapacitant spray.

“Our recruitment drive is vital to ensuring prisons are safe, secure and decent so they can successfully rehabilitate offenders, and 90 per cent of our additional 3,111 prison officers are due to be on landings by the summer.”

Two self-inflicted deaths were recorded in Lewes in 2017, a definition which includes suicides and accidental deaths through self-harm.