Dartmoor Prison has met its staff target, new figures show, as more prison officers were recruited across England and Wales.

It comes as the number of frontline prison officers has reached the highest level in over a decade. However, the Prison Reform Trust said new staff would “need time to bed in and learn” before this leads to stability in prisons.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice and HM Prison and Probation Service show there were 159 full-time equivalent prison officers working at Dartmoor Prison as of March 31.

This meant the prison exceeded its target of 147 officers in post.

However, staff levels were down slightly from the end of December, when the prison also hit its target.

Across England and Wales, 23,185 full-time equivalent prison officers were in post as of March, exceeding the target of 22,971. This was also the highest number in over a decade.

During the last quarter of 2023, prisons were short of 165 officers, while this figure was 1,180 in March of the same year.

Pia Sinha, chief executive of the Prison Reform Trust, said while the figures are encouraging, it’s crucial the efforts made to improve staff recruitment are “matched by efforts to retain good staff”.

She said: “Staff need to feel invested in and experience a sense of purpose in their role in order to stay this should become a leadership priority.”

Separate figures show while prisons were still short-staffed in winter, 7,086 assault incidents took place, including 2,517 on staff members.

At Dartmoor Prison, 17 assaults were recorded. There were also 46 self-harm incidents.

Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “People in prison should be engaged in exercise, education, employment and training, which overstretched, understaffed jails are unable to provide.

“Instead, people are warehoused in unsafe conditions for hours on end with nothing to do, with suicides and assaults becoming increasingly common.”

He said government plans to expand the prison population to almost 114,800 by 2028 were “particularly concerning”.

“To address the dire experiences of people at risk of suicide and self-harm, the Government must commit to investing in staffing and significant reductions in the prison population,” he added.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “Our figures show the number of frontline prison officers has reached the highest level in over a decade, with 1,396 more officers in place compared to last year.

“It’s solid proof our decisive action to boost starting pay to more than £30,000 and launch our biggest ever recruitment campaign is working.”

They added £100 million had been invested into additional security measures, including body-worn cameras and PAVA spray, a synthetic pepper spray used to disable violent inmates.