Prison officers across England and Wales are to receive body-worn cameras as part of a £3m investment to improve safety in jails, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has announced,

£1m is to be invested in handcuffs and restraints to reduce the need for staff to use physical holds while the majority will be spent on 5,600 cameras hoped to help in prosecutions against prisoners who committed crimes while acting as a deterrent to others.

Four prisons – HMP Wealstun, HMP Risley, HMP Preston and HMP Hull – will also be trialling the use of incapacitant spray for dealing with violent offenders.

The move comes after prison violence reached record levels, with violence against staff soaring by a third from last year to 20 a day.

However, while the Prison Officers Association has welcomed the introduction of such measures they say the central issue remains with the number of guards.

"While we welcome protective measures such as PAVA spray and body-worn cameras, the 30% cut to staff since 2010 and the increase in violence and riots during that period still has to be addressed and equipment is no replacement for staff," they said in a statement.

The Government says 1,290 extra prison officers have been recruited, but admits that number is below its own target of 2,500.

Why is there so much violence in prisons?

This is no wonder when you take into consideration the conditions in which inmates are being subjected to.

A riot which took place at Bedford prison recently has been said to be fuelled by "disgraceful conditions" including being locked up for 23 hours a day as well as a failure to provide basic items such as toilet paper and soap according to a report by Bedford's independent monitoring board.

Meanwhile, Peter Francis, the Governor of Walton Prison in Liverpool has recently been removed from his post after a surprise inspection discovered that prisoners were being forced to live in filthy conditions with cockroaches and overcrowding, according to a National Audit Office (NAO) document.

Why is overcrowding such a big problem?

Overcrowding, in particular, remains one of the key issues needing to be dealt with in Britain's prison system. Almost 21,000 of the total 85,000 prison population are being held in crowded conditions, according to a report recently released by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons. The vast majority of multi-occupancy cells do not meet the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) standard of four-square meters per person.

21,700 people have also been recalled to prison over the last year in line with the 2015 probation overhaul whereby supervision on release from prison was extended to offenders serving sentences of less than a year.

As a result of some offenders being sent back to prison for 14 to 28 days for breaching their bail conditions on minor issues such as getting a getting a taxi without permission or being late to meet their probation officer, exacerbating the overcrowding Problems.

What are the consequences?

These conditions have also been linked to the concerning rise self-harm and suicide cases within the prison population. Self-harm has increased by 73% between 2012 and 2016 while the number of those who have taken their own lives has risen by 32% in a single year between 2015 and 2016, according to a number of advocacy groups.

Although there are no official statistics of those with mental health issues within the prison population, ministers are unable to pinpoint how much is being spent on mental health care.

The unsanitary, degrading and inhumane conditions have also led to a stark rise in drug abuse according to the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke.

Who has the worst experience?

Black and Muslim prisoners are also twice as likely to have negative experiences in Jail than their white counterparts with the figure almost four times as high for black Muslims, a major new survey by equality think tank, The Runnymede Trust and the University of Greenwich has revealed.

Almost a third of Muslim prisoners did not have prison jobs or attend education courses – which can have a positive impact on rehabilitation – compared to 17% of Christian prisoners.

Meanwhile, black prisoners are more likely to be on the lowest tier of the prison rewards and punishments scheme and more likely to be restrained and put into segregation, the report has revealed.

Transgender inmates also seem to have some of the most difficult experiences in prison with a spate of suicides in recent years.

The cold hard truth

What I fail to understand is that if we are racist towards inmates, lock them up in an overcrowded cell for 23 hours at a time, not provide them with basic essentials such as toilet paper, not offer them any adequate mental health care and not have enough staff for rehabilitation opportunities such as education courses and prison jobs - how do we teach inmates about respect for society if we fail to respect them?