Self-harm incidents also increased
There were 119 self-inflicted deaths in England and Wales last year PA
A record number of people killed themselves in prisons in England and Wales in 2016, official figures show.
There were 354 deaths in custody last year, including 119 self-inflicted deaths.
Self-harm incidents jumped by 23 per cent to 37,784 – nearly 7,000 more than were recorded in the previous year.
There were 25,049 assaults in the 12 months to September, representing a rise of 31 per cent.
Of those, 18,510 were prisoner-on-prisoner assaults, up 28 per cent from the previous year.
Assaults on staff also rose 40 per cent to 6,430. Of those, 761 were serious.
The statistics, released by the Ministry of Justice, underline the scale of the task facing the Government as it attempts to address the prison crisis.
A report setting out the figures said: “The rise in assaults since 2012 has coincided with major changes to the regime, operating arrangements and culture in public sector prisons.
“For example, restructuring of the prison estate including staff reductions, which have reduced overall running costs, and an increasing awareness of gang culture and illicit psychoactive drugs in prisons.
“As well as the dangers to both physical and mental health, trading in these illicit drugs can lead to debt, violence and intimidation.”
In a statement issued following the publication of the statistics, Liz Truss, the Justice Secretary, cautioned that the issues would not be dealt with “in weeks or months”.
She said she has been clear that “the violence, self-harm and deaths in our prisons are too high”, adding: “I have taken immediate action to stabilise the estate by tackling the drugs, drones and phones that undermine security.
“We are also investing £100 million annually to boost the front line by 2,500 officers.
“These are long-standing issues that will not be resolved in weeks or months but our wholescale reforms will lay the groundwork to transform our prisons, reduce reoffending and make our communities safer.”
Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said reducing the jail population is the “only realistic way to make our prisons safe in the foreseeable future”.
He said: “Another record low in standards of safety should leave no one in any doubt of the need to relieve the pressure on our failing prison system. We know that the worst outcomes happen in overcrowded prisons.”