Suicides, assaults and incidents of self-harm in prisons all increased in the last year, new figures have revealed. 

Justice Secretary Liz Truss said the consequences of such incidents were “devastating”, and that reform of the prisons estate was her “top priority”.

Earlier this month, Ms Truss announced an additional £14m funding for extra staff in facilities that have seen “sharp rises” in violence.

Today’s Ministry of Justice figures have been used by prison reform campaigners to underline the need for a change in the system.

The number of deaths in custody jumped 21% to 324 in the year to September, a rate of 3.8 deaths per 1,000 prisoners.

There were 107 self-inflicted deaths, 12 more than in the previous year.

Self-harm incidents rose by 26% and the number of inmates self-harming was up 23%, with 2,583 cases requiring hospital attendance.

There was also a huge rise in assaults, with the total number up 34%, prisoner-on-prisoner incidents up 32%, and attacks on staff up 43%.

There were five apparent homicides, two fewer than in prisons last year.

Ms Truss said: “These statistics demonstrate the serious violence and self-harm in our prisons. The consequences are devastating and go far beyond the confines of the prison walls, spilling out into our streets and communities.

“Prison reform is my top priority – I am committed to making prisons places of safety and reform, where our dedicated officers are given the support they need to help offenders turn their lives around.

“That is why I have invested an initial £14m at ten of our most challenging prisons, and shortly I will be publishing a White Paper outlining the much needed reform across the prison estate to 2020 and beyond.”

The Howard League for Penal Reform said today’s figures showed the need for “radical action” to stop the “bloodbath of assaults, suicides and self-injury in prisons”.

“Cutting staff and prison budgets while allowing the number of people behind bars to grow unchecked has created a toxic mix of violence, death and human misery,” said the group’s chief executive, Frances Crook.

The Prison Reform Trust said there was a “hidden emergency unfolding”.