"Serious concern" Bristol Prison must see reform

Liberal Democrats have urged the new Justice Secretary to adopt a better approach to criminal justice, as new official figures show assaults and self-harm in prison rising to record highs.

The latest Safety in Custody Statistics, published today by the Ministry of Justice, show that:

  • There were 34,425 assaults in the 12 months to March 2019, including 10,311 assaults on staff – both record high figures.
  • There were 57,968 self-harm incidents in the same period, also the highest 12-month total on record.

The Ministry of Justice’s Annual Prison Performance Ratings, also published today, show that 16 prisons are rated as having “performance of serious concern” – 14% of all prisons, the highest proportion since ratings began. 

Bristol Prison finds itself in the bottom 14% of national prisons, earning the lowest rating "performance is of serious concern". 

Bristol Prison is one of only five prisons currently subject to an Urgent Notification from the HMIP. The troubled prison is the only prison to have received an Urgent Notification so far in the 2019/20 period. 

Responding to the statistics, James Cox, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol West, said:

"Improving Bristol Prison and reforming our criminal justice system must be the first priorities for the new Justice Secretary.

"Over recent months, we've seen reports of increasing violence and drug abuse coming from Bristol Prison. Standards are unacceptable and is putting the safety and welfare of staff and prisoners at risk. The Justice Secretary must now implement a clear and far-reaching plan to get the prison up to standard. 

"But we cannot see the mistakes of the past being repeated. We need a wide-ranging reform agenda that improves not only prison standards but tackles the social issues which contribute to the problems we see in Bristol Prison today."

Liberal Democrat Justice spokesperson and MP for Bath Wera Hobhouse added:

"The new Justice Secretary must urgently get to grips with the deepening crisis in our prisons.

"Violence and self-harm in prisons is more prevalent than ever, and it’s getting worse all the time.

“The Tories’ approach to criminal justice is completely failing. Prisons are overcrowded, understaffed and failing to rehabilitate the people we send there, meaning more re-offending and more people becoming victims of crime.

“The Liberal Democrats demand a better approach that recognises the factors that cause people to commit crimes – especially childhood trauma – and treats them effectively, instead of locking up more and more people in deteriorating prisons.”

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