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Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence


ANNEX

Extract from a letter to the Chairman from the Director General, HM Prison Service

  I undertook to write back to you on some points of detail.

  Paul Stinchcombe asked why young men were locked up all day at Northallerton. They are not. Currently young men at Northallerton spend 18 hours per week engaged in purposeful activity. I accept that this is far from ideal, but when set against the figures that we achieve at Feltham (14.9 hours), Brinsford (20.3 hours) and Werrington (36.3 hours) you will begin to get a feel for the broad range of service delivery. I am not seeking to excuse Northallerton; merely to set it against performance elsewhere. This will, of course, be something that you will wish to delve into some more when you make your visits to young offenders establishments. I would certainly welcome your views on this specific point after you have made your visits.

  Humfrey Malins asked me about the numbers of staff we employ. In response to his preliminary question I said there were 136 prisons. I should have said 137. I went on to explain that we employ about 44,000 staff. For accuracy, on 31 January 2001 we employed 43,843 staff. Of these, 1,152 were Prison Governors.

  All candidates for the Accelerated Promotion Scheme join as prison officers, although they would expect to reach Principal Officer within a year, and Junior Governor within two to three years, so the progression is fairly swift. The initial salary for a prison officer who joins the Service is £15,842. On promotion to Principal Officer the salary is £25,453, and then on promotion to Junior Governor the salary rises to £30,336. If the officer is employed in London there is an additional weighting allowance of £2,350.

  Michael Fabricant asked about the incidents of self-harm in prison during the last year. I think it would be more useful to look at a slightly wider period.

  Our new suicide prevention and self-harm policy aims to reduce both the numbers of suicides and cases of self-harm. Definitions of self-harm and recording practices are currently under review and figures traditionally reported for overall self-harm cases are not yet available for the period since March 2000. The total for 1999-00 was 7,172 compared to 7,398 in 1998-99 and 7,023 in 1997-98.

  More recent information is available about serious self-harm cases. As I explained to the Committee, while the numbers and rate of prisoner suicides fell during 2000 (by 11 per cent from 91 to 81), the incidence of self-harm incidents by hanging and strangulation increased. It rose by nearly 50 per cent to 3,542 [(see table below)]. We believe that this sharp increase was most probably because of greater reporting, although we are still, as part of our work on our strategy against suicide, investigating the reasons more closely.

  The general prison population contains very large numbers of people with factors such as drug dependency and substance abuse which substantially raise their risk of suicide and self-harm. 14 per cent of male and 20 per cent of female sentenced prisoners have borderline personality disorders compared to 1.8 per cent in the outside community.

Table: Self-harm incidents by hanging and strangulation in
HM Prisons in England and Wales 1998-00.

Establishment Type
   Calendar Year
Total
1998
1999
2000
cat B
27
14
36
77
cat B local
522
488
797
1,807
cat C
44
55
68
167
dispersal
25
17
26
68
open
3
6
1
10
remand
111
87
83
281
YOI
79
112
167
358
Female
53
120
211
382
Contract
45
51
34
140
PECS*
71
88
93
252
TOTAL
985
1,041
1,516
3,542

*  Prisoner Escort and Custody Services

Martin Narey

15 February 2001


 
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