The number of incidents of self-harm in jails in England and Wales jumped 14% last year to the highest recorded figure.
In the year to December, there were 63,328 reported incidents of self-harm in prisons, according to Ministry of Justice (MoJ) data.
This is up 14% on the previous 12 months (55,615) and the highest figure on record since data was documented in 2009 (24,184). The lowest figure recorded so far was 23,158 in 2012.
But quarterly figures from the three months to December show the number of incidents started to decrease slightly towards the end of the year.
The number of prisoners self-harming also rose by 3% last year, to the highest recorded figure of 12,977, up from 12,573 in 2018 and 6,448 in 2009.
The rate of incidents per prisoner rose by 11%, from 4.4 in the previous 12 months to 4.9 last year, the MoJ figures showed.
This was also the highest recorded figure since 2009 (3.8) after a dip to 3.3 in 2013.
A small number of inmates who frequently self-harm “have a disproportionate impact on this figure”, the report noted, adding: “The majority of those who self-harm in prison do so only once.”
The number of incidents which meant a prisoner needed to go to hospital rose by 8% from 3,215 to 3,481 last year. Also a record high from 2009 when 1,304 attendances were recorded.
But the number began to fall again slightly in the latest quarter, the report added.
Among child criminals aged between 15 and 18 held in young offender institutions and youth prisons, there was a 110% increase in self-harm incidents last year as figures jumped up to 1,229 from 584 in 2018.
This is the highest rate since data was recorded in 2015 (421).
There were around 229 individuals recorded as self-harming in the youth estate, up from 176 the year before.
The data report said the number of inmates recorded as self-harming should be treated as an approximate as details of prisoners are not always documented with each incident.
In the year to March, the number of deaths in prison custody fell by 10% from 317 to 286.
Of these, 80 deaths were “self-inflicted”, a decrease of 8% from 87 in the previous period.
The number of assaults also dropped 4% last year from 34,204 to 32,669 – the first fall in seven years.
Attacks on staff fell by 2% from 10,203 to 9,995, while assaults carried out by prisoners on fellow inmates dropped 5% from 24,441 to 23,113.
Juliet Lyon, chairman of the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody, described the “steep and continuing rise” in self-harm as “an epidemic in itself which must be addressed”.
Deborah Coles, director of the charity Inquest, said the levels of self-harm and rate of deaths “reflects a long-running failure in the Government’s duty of care to protect lives in prison”.
Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said the figures remain at levels which “would have been unthinkable before the Government slashed prison resources in 2013”, but added: “At long last, there may be some signs of hope.”
Prisons minister Lucy Frazer said self-harm remains “a huge concern”, adding: “This is why we must continue to make jails safer and ensure prisoners can access the support they need – which we are doing by extending telephone access and providing dedicated support to each individual.”
More than 25,000 staff have been trained in suicide and self-harm prevention, the MoJ said.
The department is also providing a £500,000 grant until 2021 to the Samaritans for a scheme to train selected prisoners to offer emotional support to fellow inmates.