Page last updated at 06:06 GMT, Monday, 8 June 2009 07:06 UK

Prison attacks in Wales 'up 48%'

Inside a cell at Parc Prison
Parc Prison near Bridgend accounted for nearly 90% of prisoner assaults in Wales

Assaults by prisoners on fellow inmates in jails in Wales have risen 48% over the last four years, figures suggest.

Plaid Cymru says the number of attacks rose from 297 in 2004 to 439 in 2008. Parc Prison, Bridgend accounted for 381, in figures the party has obtained.

Plaid AM Leanne Wood has called it a "damning indictment" of a "chronically overcrowded" criminal justice system.

Prisons Minister David Hanson MP said reducing violence in prisons, including privately run jails, was "a priority".

The figures were obtained from the Howard League for Penal Reform following a Parliamentary answer.

They show that almost 90% of the attacks occurred at the privately-run Parc prison - an increase of 68%. The jail is the largest in Wales with 1,126 places.

Parc Prison
Cardiff - 19 (down 64%)
Parc, Bridgend - 381 (up 68%)
Prescoed/Usk - 13 (up 1200%)
Swansea - 26 (up 63%)
For 2008, compared with 2004. Source: Plaid Cymru/Howard League

There were 26 attacks at Swansea, 19 in Cardiff and 13 at Prescoed/Usk over the same period.

The number of prisoner-on-officer assaults fell over the same period from 76 to 62 - but 53 of them were at Parc.

Incidents of self-harm also fell from 362 to 327 but with 229 of them at Parc.

Ms Wood, AM for South Wales Central, commented: "This is a damning indictment of the present criminal justice system which is chronically overcrowded.

"It is much more difficult to maintain control and this could be an explanation for the increase in prisoner-on-prisoner attacks."

We are collectively committed to working towards a zero tolerance approach to prison violence
David Hanson MP, Prisons Minister

Ms Wood said that prisons were better run in the public sector with experienced prison officers employed on decent wages, terms and conditions.

She added: "These figures provide further evidence of the need for all prisons to be in the public sector, and for a strategy designed to reduce the prison population."

Prisons Minister David Hanson MP commented: "Reducing violence in prisons is a priority for ministers, the national offender management service and the Prison Officers Association.

"We are collectively committed to working towards a zero tolerance approach to prison violence."


Mr Hanson said that prisons had since 2004 been putting in place local violence reduction strategies, and this applied to the contracted-out prisons from mid 2007.

He added that assaults in custody ranged from relatively minor ones where no injuries were sustained to very serious ones where criminal charges follow.

He said: "Although the reported number of assaults has been rising over the years since 2000, there have been improvements to recording during this time.

"As a result, annual numbers for early years are not comparable with later years."

Last year Ms Wood launched a policy development paper, Making Our Communities Safer, and called for the assembly government to be given the powers to deal with prisons.

She argued that the prison population could be reduced significantly by the introduction of more community-based rehabilitation and "meaningful" offending behaviour programmes.

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