The National Probation Service is struggling to provide adequate rehabilitation and community supervision services to offenders post-release, with staff shortages meaning that most staff are failing to meet their weekly caseload targets. The government has now made it a priority to create thousands more prison spaces. But unless substantial resources are also invested both in prison safety and the services available to offenders post-release, these measures will do little more than place thousands of offenders into a dangerous and violent environment, with little prospect of rehabilitation or reform.
On 30 January, the Ministry of Justice released new ‘safety in custody’ statistics covering deaths, self-harm and assaults in the prison system. The number of individuals self-harming in prison in the 12 months to September 2019 is now at 12,740 – the highest recorded figure. In that period, there were 61,461 self-harm incidents (a rate of 742 per 1000 prisoners), up 16% from the previous 12 months, and also a new record high. In female establishments, these figures are particularly shocking: a rate of 3007 incidents per 1000 prisoners represents an increase of 18% in the last 12 months. Most concerning of all, in ‘youth estate’ – 15- to 18-year olds in Young Offender Institutions and all 15- to 17-year olds in Youth Prisons – there was a 93% increase in self-harm incidents in the 12 months to September 2019 (from 551 to 1,062 incidents). Incidents requiring hospital attendance increased from 2.5% in the previous 12 months to 4.8% in the 12 months to September 2019.