Surge in assaults at Woodhill Prison in Milton Keynes is a “national emergency”

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Assaults in Woodhill Prison have increased by 79 per cent in five years, with prison reform campaigners declaring the situation a “national emergency”.

The rise in attacks on staff and prisoners, revealed in figures from the Ministry of Justice, shows the scale of the task prison officers are facing.

Of the 300 assaults recorded in 2017, 98 were on prison staff.

And 38 assaults were defined as serious - sexual assaults and those where victims required hospital in-patient treatment.

The numbers also reveal 664 cases of self-harm were recorded in Woodhill last year, compared to just 272 in 2012.

With prison assaults increasing nationally, the government is now rolling out body worn cameras, police-style handcuffs and restraints, and trialling PAVA incapacitant spray in a bid to address the problem.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This shameful rise in violence and self-injury is the direct result of policy decisions to allow the number of people behind bars to grow unchecked while starving prisons of resources.

“This is a national emergency, and the government must respond boldly and urgently.”

Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “The levels of violence, suicide and self-harm in our prisons are far too high and we are taking urgent action to address these problems.”

“Assaults on our hardworking staff will never be tolerated. We are ensuring prison officers have the tools they need to do the job.”

Mr Gauke said a national recruitment drive will mean an extra 3,111 prison staff, most of whom will be ready to start work this summer.