Patterns of violence and self-harm in women prisoners: characteristics, co-incidence and clinical significance [2018]

Self-harm and violence in women’s prisons in England are common and occurring with increasing frequency. We aimed to describe the characteristics and patterns of violent and/or self-harming behaviours in women in prison by conducting a retrospective analysis of routine data about self-harm incidents and adjudications. Incidence rates of self-harm and violence were calculated and associated factors explored using logistic regression. We found that only 6.7% of 5486 women prisoners self-harmed and 7.9% had been violent. Eighty per cent of all self-harm incidents related to 70 women. Almost 4 in 10 women prisoners who self-harmed were also violent. Multiple incarcerations and court movements are associated with incidents of self-harm and violence. Women with high-frequency self-harm (≥6) began self-harming early in their custodial period. We conclude that women prisoners who are very behaviourally disturbed can and should be identified early. They warrant clinical formulation and multi-agency responses to risk. Those with high-frequency self-harm should be cared for by external health services.

Chris Kottler, Jared G. Smith & Annie Bartlett
The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, Volume 29, 2018 – Issue 4