Prisons are challenging environments where the risks include violence. The vast majority of such violence occurs between prisoners, with more than 350 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults being formally recorded every year in Western Australian prisons. Occasionally, violence spills over towards staff. In 2013 prisoner-on-staff assaults accounted for almost one in every four recorded assaults.
Assaults on staff in prisons can have both short and long term repercussions for the victim. There are the obvious physical injuries which a staff member may endure from a strike, or a kick. But there are other assaults, like spitting, where the injuries are less obvious but no less harmful. Assaults can also have mental health repercussions for both victims and witnesses, and recent studies have found a link between prison officers experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and burnout, and prisoner-to-staff violence.
Repercussions for prisoners who assault staff are varied. They may include an increased period of incarceration or ‘internal’ prison disciplinary charges depending on the circumstances and severity of the assault.