Concern grows over rise in self-harming by prisoners

Politicians have raised concerns about prisoners self-harming in Scottish jails after new figures suggested there has been a dramatic rise in the damaging behaviour.

From November 2016 to October 2017, there were 506 incidents of prisoners self-harming.

The newly released data suggests the number of incidents of self-harm in Scottish prisons has increased by 82 per cent over the last three years.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that in the year November 2016 to October 2017, there were 506 incidents of prisoners self-harming, compared to just 282 incidents in the year to October 2014.

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The figures represent a worrying trend, with the number of self-harm incidents increasing each year since 2014.

Labour has called on the Scottish Prisons Service (SPS) and HMIPS to investigate the cause for this increase and to attempt to reverse the trend.

The SPS said the rise could be accounted for by new ways of recording self-harm incidents.

The figures showed that there were 288 incidents of self-harm between November 2012 and October 2013. The figure fell to 282 between November 2013 and October 2014 before rising to 328 between November 2014 and October 2015. The upward trend continued with 414 incidents recorded between November 2015 and October 2016. Another dramatic rise saw the total reach 506 between November 2016 and October 2017.

In some cases self-harm can be linked to having suicidal thoughts. Last year 13 people took their own lives while in Scotland’s prisons. That compared with 12 in 2016, four in 2015, eight in 2014 and seven in 2013.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, Daniel Johnson, said: “These are deeply worrying figures that show a disturbing trend.

He added: “The Scottish Prison Service must look into this matter and determine the cause for this increase. They must then seek to reverse this worrying trend.”

A Sottish Prison Service spokesman said: “It should be noted that in November 2013 it was highlighted that there was no consistent method for recording incidents of self-harm. It was agreed that it was essential to collect accurate data as there may be lessons to be learned as well as to inform future policy development. This has led to more accurate recording of self-harming behaviours amongst those in custody rather than there being a significant increase.”