British prisons

Ever lengthening sentences have nearly doubled our prison population in twenty years.

Prison has a poor record for reducing reoffending— 45% of adults are reconvicted within a year of release. For those serving sentences of less than 12 months this increases to 59%.

One in three prisoners had used different drugs in the month before custody, and 71% of them were reconvicted. One in five prisoners drank alcohol every day in that month, and 62% of them were reconvicted. 15% of them were homeless before entering custody, and 79% of them were reconvicted.

Prisoners with learning difficulties are more likely to be victimised and bullied than other prisoners. Over half of such prisoners say they had been scared while in prison and almost half say they have been bullied or that people have been nasty to them. 7% of prisoners have an IQ of less than 70 and a further 25% have an IQ between 70–79. Prisoners with learning disabilities or difficulties are more likely than other prisoners to have broken a prison rule, are five times as likely to have been subject to control and restraint techniques and over three times as likely to have spent time in segregation.

Anne Owers, former Chief Inspector of Prisons, said, “Prison has become, to far too large an extent, the default setting for those with a wide range of mental and emotional disorders.” 25% of women and 15% of men in prison reported symptoms indicative of psychosis. The rate among the general public is about 4%. 10% of men and 30% of women have had a previous psychiatric admission before they entered prison. 26% of women and 16% of men said they had received treatment for a mental health problem in the year before custody. 58% of women entering prison and 35% of men said they had emotional well-being or mental health issues. Personality disorders are particularly prevalent among people in prison. 62% of male and 57% of female sentenced prisoners have a personality disorder.

In 2014 there were 243 deaths in custody, the highest number on record. Over a third were self-inflicted. There were 23 homicides. 46% of women prisoners report having attempted suicide at some point in their lives. This is more than twice the rate of male prisoners (21%) and higher than in the general UK population (6%). Rates of self-harm have increased by 13% in the last two years. There were 25,775 self-harm incidents in 2014 with 1,749 requiring a hospital attendance. 10% were in the first week of arriving in a prison.

Assaults are at the highest level they have ever been. There were nearly 16,200 assaults in prison during 2014—over three-quarters were prisoner on prisoner. There has been a 35% increase in serious assaults in the last year alone. They now make up 13% of all assaults, the highest level recorded. Around half of people (53%) who reported being physically assaulted by another prisoner did not report it to staff.

36% of prisoners are estimated to have a physical or mental disability—compared with 19% of the general population. 11% have a physical disability, 18% have a mental disability and 7% have both. However, inspectors regularly found that disabled prisoners are not reliably identified. The needs of many requiring help or reasonable adjustments are not being met. The removal of Disability Liaison Officers in many prisons has also affected care.

Information from The Prison Reform Trust Bromley Briefing Prison Factfile pdf.

Prison reform

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