EXCLUSIVE: Gaps in Government statistics on LGBTQ prisoners.

TPN brings you an exclusive article on a new Freedom of Information request into the state of British prisons. The FoM relates to the number of people that identify as LGBTQ currently being held in our institutions, the request relates to violence and uncovers that the data is lacking, as there currently no statistics being collated on if LGBTQ people are suffering from targets acts of violence. It draws the question, how safe are our prisons?

The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) now collects data on Her Majesty’s Prison’s, and in the spring of 2017, it was decided that data relating to whether a person identified as LGBTQ should be collected in line with new guidance on care and management of transgender people. Currently there are 82,000 men in our prison’s with 18,5000 women behind bars. 2.6% of the prison population is supposedly LGBTQ people, but this figure may be up for dispute.

The Prison Service acknowledges this is a low estimate of LGBTQ numbers as some inmates would not disclose their sexual orientation and those who have successfully transitioned and have a full gender recognition certificate are not included. Of the 124 public and private prisons, 47 state they have at least one transgender inmate of the 125 recognised by the prison system.

The prison system appears to want to be seen to be moving in response to public concern and acting in tandem with public awareness in relation to rise of Transgender Activism. However LGBTQ are not included in the statistics of this latest report in which the prison service confirms a staggering 11,008 prisoners were injured during incarceration in just one 12 month period.  Last year, 332 men and 222 women died in jail. Self- harm figures are also shocking despite the fall in the female prison population. Women who self- harm account for 10% of the entire prison population according to reports. Interestingly there has been a 34% fall in the number of prisoners under 25 years old and a 40% increase in men over 50. Women make up 18,500 of prisoners and 1,954 are happy to state they are LGBTQ, yet there are no statistics to break down violence based on their sexual orientation. Perhaps they have something to hide?

Failing Government policy.

Mark Day, who is head of policy at the Prison Reform Trust says the dramatic increase in violence within the prison service especially in the period 2010 -2015 can be attributed to severe cuts in staffing levels. This under staffing has led to a substantial loss of experienced middle ranking officers with prisoner knowledge and the skills of assessing and intervening when violence looms on the horizon. Mark Day and the Prison Reform Trust have welcomed the Government’s fresh investment in prison staff whilst at the same time acknowledging it will take a while for these new officers to gain the experience of the 25% of officers that were previously cut from the service. 
The Prison Reform Trust believes that the Government needs a new total compliance review of all aspects of sentencing as the only way forward to decrease the violence and death in UK jails. The increase in staffing levels must continue alongside working to reduce the prison population to a sustainable level. The hope is that in the 2019 spending review the prison service will recognise the important role of continuing investment and the thought that is required to maintain a safe environment.
The perception that the public care little for the welfare of prisoners has allowed Government to make cuts without much thought or real consultation during a period of austerity. However many would argue that as a direct result of these cuts to the Prison Service hundreds of inmates have died and tens of thousands suffered injuries as a direct result of this policy decision. Should we care as these prisoners did break the law? Yes we must care. Our prisons must keep the public safe however they also need to be a safe place for prisoners, too. Further still, there should be statistics on violence by sexual orientation in order to keep the Government accountable.

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