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Prisoners and everyone else within the prison system feels safe and protected from violence in the prison environment.
All prisoners and everyone in the penal system should feel safe and protected from harm, abuse and violence. A number of factors help prevent violence occurring in prisons. These include: providing safe custody limits; access to single-cell accommodation; creation of positive and humane prison conditions whereby prisoners have access to regular forms of communication with their families; and a high level of out-of-cell time with access to a wide and varied regime and effective prison management.
In 2018, 110 assaults on staff by prisoners were recorded, while 418 assaults on prisoners by prisoners were recorded. Based on information revealed under the Freedom of Information Act, it was also reported that staff allegedly assaulted prisoners 37 times in 2018.
In November 2018, the National Violence Reduction Unit opened in Midlands Prison. The National Violence Reduction Unit is targeted at a small number of prisoners who are engaged in repeated serious violence. The approach of the unit is to meet each prisoner’s complex needs through improving their psychological health. Its focus is on progression.,
Research is currently being conducted on the management of this small cohort of prisoners under the ‘violent and disruptive prisoner’ (VDP) policy, which has been in place since 2014. This study examines the previous approach of the management of violent prisoners under the VDP policy, whereby practice was operationally driven, against the new approach, which is more psychologically informed, and aimed at positively intervening to reduce violent behaviour. Previous practice under the VDP policy was defined by the following three characteristics.
Indicator S27.1: The number of violent incidents across the prison estate.
There has been a 5.8% increase in recorded prisoner-on-staff assaults from 2017 to 2018 figures.
|Prison||Prison capacity||Assaults, 2017||Assaults, 2018|
Indicator S27.2: The number of sexual violence incidents across the prison estate.
This information has not been made available.
Indicator S27.3: The number of prisoners held in Close Supervision Cells and duration of time spent in these cells.
This information has not been made available.
Indicator S27.4: The establishment of a therapy-focused unit for prisoners who are violent and disruptive.
The National Violence Reduction Unit has been open since November 2018.
IPRT welcomes that the IPS is collating data on prisoner-on-staff assaults and prisoner-on-prisoner assaults. It is also interesting to see the number of alleged staff on prisoner assaults reported under an FOI request. Only through yearly publication of data, alongside the diligent recording of incidents, can a true assessment be made of patterns of violence in the prison system.
The figures provided in the tables above do not provide detail on the number of individuals involved in assaults, which may reflect a small number of prisoners. Collating these data and examining circumstances around incidents may help further identify key factors towards reducing violence; for example, the State Claims Agency review found that assaults were carried out by a small number of prisoners who mostly presented with challenging behaviours and/or mental health problems.
Scotland adopts a ‘public health’ approach to understanding the causes and consequences of violence. In 2004–2005, there were 137 homicides in Scotland, a figure that was halved to 62 by 2016–2017. In response to the high number of homicides, Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit (part of Police Scotland) introduced a community initiative to reduce violence. In 2011, police stated that this led to a 50% reduction in offending for those participating in the programme.
Research shows that while there has been little evaluation of a number of initiatives implemented to reduce violence, the largest declines in homicide and violence are in line with policies and intervention strategies put in place during mid-2000s.
Other important multi-agency initiatives in Scotland include the Navigator Programme. The programme is based in emergency departments and is due to be expanded in 2018–2019. ‘Navigators’ connect with patients in emergency departments and work with people following their discharge to help them gain access to specialist services. Education Scotland also deliver a ‘mentors in violence' programme developed by the Violence Reduction Unit, which promotes positive health and wellbeing among young people.
Below is a summary of evidence on ‘what works’ and what does not work to reduce violence, as identified by an independent academic peer reviewed study for the Ministry of Justice.
The Government should adopt a ‘public health’ approach towards reducing violence in society, drawing on learning from Scotland.
“The safety and security of prisoners, staff and security providers and visitor shall be ensured for at all times” (Rule 1 of UN Mandela Rules). Procedures shall be in place to ensure the safety of prisoners, prison staff and all visitors and to reduce to a minimum risk of violence and other events that might threaten safety” (Rule 52.2 European Prison Rules).
IPS, ‘Assault figures, (see Assault tables)’, https://www.irishprisons.ie/information-centre/statistics-information/assault-figures/.
Red FM 104-106, ‘Prison staff allegedly assaulted prisoners 37 times last year’, http://www.redfm.ie/news/cork/prison-staff-allegedly-assaulted-prisoners-37-times-last-year/.
IPS (2019), Annual Report 2018, p.3, https://www.irishprisons.ie/information-centre/publications/annual-reports/.
It can accommodate six prisoners with an additional four for the purpose of an intensive assessment; see http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PR18000350.
Gallagher O. (2019) ‘Addressing serious violence in the Irish Prison Service: exploring the experiences of prisoners and prison officers’, The IAFCP Newsletter, International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology.
IPS, ‘Assault figures’ (see Assault tables), https://www.irishprisons.ie/information-centre/statistics-information/assault-figures/.
Kildare Street (2019), ‘Written Answers, Thursday 13th June 2019, Department of Justice and Equality, Prison discipline’, https://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2019-06-13a.246.
National Treasury Management Agency (2016), Review of Assaults on Operational Prison Staff by Prisoners, https://stateclaims.ie/uploads/publications/Review-of-Assaults-on-Operational-Prison-Staff-by-Prisoners-November-2016.pdf.
O’Hare, P. (2019) ‘How Scotland stemmed the tide of knife crime’, BBC News, 4 March 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-45572691.
BBC News, ‘Glasgow gang project cuts violent crime’, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-14012001.
Skott, S. and McVie, S. (2019), Reduction in Homicide and Violence in Scotland is Largely Explained by Fewer Gangs and Less Knife Crime, University of Edinburgh, https://blogs.sps.ed.ac.uk/aqmen/files/2019/01/S-Skott-Types-of-Homicide-28.1.19.pdf.
Scottish Government, ‘Violence including knife crime’, https://www.gov.scot/policies/crime-prevention-and-reduction/violence-knife-crime/.
Gov. UK, ‘Guidance, Violence reduction in prison’, https://www.gov.uk/guidance/violence-reduction-in-prison.