'Shocking' Rise in Levels of Violence in Prisons; AM Criticises Privately-Run Parc Prison

Article excerpt

Byline: Ben Glaze

ASSAULTS by prisoners on fellow inmates in Welsh jails rose 48% over five years, figures released today reveal.

Attacks by inmates on each other increased at three of the nation's four prisons - Parc in Bridgend, Swansea and Prescoed/ Usk. Only Cardiff recorded a fall.

Plaid Cymru AM Leanne Wood, who requested the statistics, said last night: "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." The figures, produced by the Howard League for Penal Reform, revealed prisoner-on-prisoner attacks rose from 297 to 439 between 2004 and 2008, with almost 90% at privately-run Parc.

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

Assaults by inmates on prison officers fell from 76 to 62 - but 53 were at Parc.

Incidents of self harm, including cutting wrists and suicide, fell from 362 to 327, but with 229 at Parc.

South Wales Central AM Ms Wood, a former probation officer, called for the Ministry of Justice to take over Parc, which is operated by Group 4 Securicor, now called G4S. She added: "I've always been of the view that prisons are better run in the public sector with experienced prison officers employed on decent wages, terms and conditions.

"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." Last year, Ms Wood launched a 21-page policy development paper, Making Our Communities Safer, and called for the Assembly to be given the powers to deal with prisons, police, probation and courts.

One of the recommendations was for more money to be spent on community rehabilitation schemes and "meaningful offending behaviour programmes" in prison for defendants convicted of serious offences. …