Violence is on the rise in toughest of prisons: attacks are up despite jail populations on the decline


Prisoner assaults are on the rise in some of the UK’s toughest prisons despite a Government scheme to reduce violence among inmates.

HMP Wormwood Scrubs in Du Cane Road, White City is among three of the prisons in England and Wales that have seen an increase in violence.

This comes soon after the Government’s £10million scheme to reduce violence across 10 prisons.

Data from the Ministry of Justice and charity Inquest shows that prisoner deaths increased by 20 per cent in the first 11 months of the 10 Prisons Project.

In seven out of the 10 prisons, violence and drug use decreased during the project – but in the three remaining prisons, the rate of assaults increased.

Former Prisons Minister Rory Stewart, above HMP Wormwood Scrubs

In HMP Wormwood Scrubs, the number of assaults rose from 34 in June 2018 to 51 in June 2019. This was despite a inmate population drop from 1,140 to 1,059.

Previous Prisons Minister Rory Stewart vowed to resign by August 2019 if the number of assaults did not fall in the prisons with his new scheme.

But he ended up being promoted to Secretary of State for International Development in May before eventually resigning from that position over Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans.

His resignation came before the results of the Prisons Project became public knowledge.

The project attempted to turn around some of the most difficult jails through enhanced security, strong leadership and better standards.

X-ray body scanners, metal-detecting equipment, drug-trace detection machines and traps to catch contraband flushed down the toilet were some of the new measures introduced in the prisons.

A team of experienced officers was also used in the 10 prisons to build confidence and provide advice to staff.

The cells and communal spaces were also refurbished and sanitation was improved to boost safety and decency in the prisons.

Evidence from the project is already being used to try to increase standards across all prisons, despite failings in three of the prisons.

Prisons Minister Lucy Frazer MP said: “I am encouraged by the results of this bold project to turn around some of our most difficult prisons, which have seen drops in violence and drug use.

“We are already using what has worked to improve the rest of the estate, spending £100million on airport-style security to stop the scourge of mobile phones and drugs that fuel crime and disorder in jails.

“Alongside our recruitment of thousands of prison officers and building 10,000 additional prison places, we will continue our relentless drive to protect the public and make prisons places of safety and rehabilitation.”

A further £100million funding has been allocated following a £70million investment in security and safety measures over the past few years.

The new funding has been used to build intelligence resources, a Financial Investigations Unit and a Serious and Organised Crime Task Force.

Inquest condemned the “fundamentally flawed vanity project” for failing to create a safe space for prisoners.

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