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16 May 2018

Reducing conflict and improving safety in our prisons

Whilst there has been a welcome reduction in the number of self-inflicted deaths in prison over the last year, figures published last month show that all other safety indicators are once again set records for all the wrong reasons.

Record levels of self-harming; record levels of assaults on prisoners; and record levels of assaults on staff show that violence and fear is the daily reality for many people in prison.

Dr Kimmett Edgar, the Prison Reform Trust’s Head of Research, a specialist in violence and conflict resolution in prisons, has produced a guide for staff and officials to help them to develop much needed strategies for violence reduction in our prisons. This guide builds on a speech he delivered to the Prison Safety and Reform team at the Ministry of Justice last month.

Conflict resolution needs to be placed at the centre of prison strategies to reduce violence. Doing so would empower governors, officers and prisoners in their efforts to make prisons safer.

A conflict-centred approach focuses on: structure—the ways the prison environment can cause or prevent conflicts among prisoners; relationships, as prison officers play a vital role in keeping everyone safe; rebuilding trust between managers, staff, and prisoners; and sharing responsibility for safety with prisoners so that everyone has a stake in creating a safe and stable prison.