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Prison suicides hit 25-year high

One in ten prisoners reported to have self-harmed last year

Mark Gould

Friday, 29 April 2016

There have been six murders and 100 suicides in prisons across England and Wales in the past 12 months – the highest levels seen for at least 25 years, official figures have revealed.

The Ministry of Justice’s safety in custody statistics reveal that a total of 9,458 prisoners – one in 10 – are reported to have self-harmed in 2015, with a 25% rise in reported incidents of self-harm to more than 32,000. The number of suicides rose to 100 in the 12 months to March, up from 79 in the previous 12 months. This is the highest level since at least 1999 and the increase comes at a time when the prison population in England and Wales has remained relatively stable at 85,500 over the past year.

Deborah Coles, the director of the charity Inquest, which campaigns on behalf of relatives of those who have died, said the statistics demonstrated that the prison system and prison health services are failing patients.

“They reflect the desperate reality of prison life and the failure to protect those in its care. Prisons are places where the safety and dignity of prisoners is increasingly under threat. Every day Inquest hears harrowing stories from the families of those who have died. Time and again deaths occur that reveal failures in treatment and care and a lack of learning from previous deaths,” Coles said.

“Until there is a dramatic reduction in the use of prison and a redirection of resources into community alternatives, then the endemic problem of death and harm will continue.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “These figures demonstrate the very serious challenges facing the prison service. They show how badly prison reform is needed.

“We must do better at reducing violence and preventing drugs entering prison. We must do more to help prisoners with mental health problems. We have to ensure prisoners can be rehabilitated so they are no longer a danger to others.”

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