There was a 47% increase in the rate of self-harm incidents in women’s prisons in the last three months, according to the latest Ministry of Justice statistics. Over the last 12 months ending June 2021 there was a 16% annual increase in the rate of self-harm incidents which, according to the campaign group Women in Prison, took the total number of self-harm incidents to its highest level for a decade.
Since the start of the pandemic began and the imposition of the prison lockdown there has been an exponential increase in self-harm incidents for women. ‘This huge jump in self-harm incidents on the last quarter highlights the devastating mental health crisis for women in prison,’ commented the group’s head of campaigns and public affairs Sorana Vieru. ‘Self-harm incidents have now hit record levels and we still don’t know what the full impact of the pandemic will be. While restrictions in the community have gradually eased, this hasn’t been the case for many women in prison, who have remained confined to their cells for up to 23 hours a day. However, these increases are part of a wider trend of declining mental health for women in prison and serve as a sobering reminder that prisons are not safe and do not enable recovery, but prevent it.’
Vieru said the figures were ‘even more worrying in the context of yesterday’s Spending Review, which saw the Government announce funding for 20,000 more prison places, including 500 for women’s prisons’. ‘Instead, the Government can and must invest in community-based services that support women to tackle the issues that sweep them into crime in the first place, like domestic abuse and mental ill-health,’ she added.