Rise In Prison Attacks Prompts Extra Staffing Commitment

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The Law Of... reducing prison assaults

After a report revealed that the number of assaults in prisons continued to rise, the Justice Secretary has committed to deploying additional prison staff.

Rise In Prison Assaults On Prison Officers Prompts Staffing Commitment

Discussing the spate of attacks on both prison guards and inmates, Anna Thompson – Associate on Simpson Millar's Personal Injury team – explains the effect subsequent injuries can have on those affected.

Continual Rise In Prison Assaults

Statistics from the Ministry of Justice showed that the number of assaults in English and Welsh prisons increased in the year to June 2016; this continued an upward trajectory of assaults that first began in 2012.

Briefly, the report outlined that:

  • Assaults on Prison Officers reached almost 6,000 incidents every year, with the overall number of assaults increasing by a third from the previous period to 23,775
  • Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults accounted for 17,782 of incidents, meaning that the risk of an inmate being attacked increased by a third compared to a year ago
  • Attacks on staff increased 43% to 5,954 assaults – almost 700 of these incidents resulted in an officer suffering a serious injury
  • Attacks on staff in female prisons also rose, reaching 269 incidents – the highest level in seven years


The theme of increased attacks coincides with spending cuts, with £2bn reduced from the MoJ budget since 2010. Most of these savings were made by cutting the number of prison places, as well as reducing the costs associated with each individual inmate.

Extra Staffing To Combat Problem

In the report, the MoJ commented on the increase in attacks, explaining that:

"The rise in assaults since 2012 has coincided with major changes to the regime, operating arrangements and culture in public sector prisons."

"For example, restructuring of the prison estate including staff reductions, which have reduced overall running costs, and an increasing awareness of gang culture and illicit psychoactive drugs in prisons."

"As well as the dangers to both physical and mental health, trading in these illicit drugs can lead to debt, violence and intimidation."

A week after the report was published, Justice Secretary Liz Truss revealed a White Paper that announced that an extra 2,100 Prison Officers will be recruited across England and Wales to ease staffing shortages.

The intention of the recruitment drive will be to reduce attacks on staff and prisoners, with Truss also announcing that prison governors will be afforded more autonomy to ensure that drug tests are administered when inmates enter and leave jail.

Truss claimed that the new staffing levels will allow prisons to commit six officers to each inmate, which should lead to a reduction in the number of attacks in jails.

Complicated Injuries For Prison Guards

Union leaders have spoken out about staffing levels since the increase in attacks on Prison Officers began and Steve Gillan, General Secretary of the Prison Officers Association (POA) – the largest union representing prison staff in the UK – said that frontline staffing levels need to increase if prisons are to be run by staff, instead of inmates.

With talks between the union and the Government focusing on the protection of prison staff from harm and injury, it is believed that – unless an agreement can be made by 11th November – industrial action could be tabled by the union in an attempt to protect both staff and inmates in jail.

Commenting on the rise of assaults on Prison Officers Anna said:

"The figures highlighting an increase in prison assaults are extremely concerning, especially for anyone considering a career in the prison service, where it appears they would be seen by some prisoners as a target."

"It is important to remember that often, the injuries suffered under these circumstances are not only physical but psychological as well; leaving many unable to return to a job they loved."

"I hope that the commitment from the Justice Secretary to recruit an additional 2,100 prison staff improves safety standards for those working in jails."

"We act for injured Prison Officers where they have been assaulted or suffered an accident at work due to poor working conditions. If you require any legal advice regarding any incident you have been involved in as a Prison Officer please speak to us."


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