Howard League condemns 'shocking' rise in prison deaths

By agency reporter
February 1, 2019

Figures released by the Ministry of Justice reveal 325 people died in prisons in England and Wales last year. They included 92 men and women who lost their lives through suicide – a 31 per cent rise compared to 2017.

A statistical bulletin published by the Ministry of Justice shows that 162 people in prison were found to have died of natural causes. Investigations into a further 67 cases remain either unresolved or incomplete, with further information awaited. There were four homicides.

Eleven women died in prison in 2018, up from eight the previous year. They included three women who lost their lives through suicide.

The figures show that prisons in England and Wales recorded 52,814 incidents of self-injury in the 12 months to the end of September 2018 – at a rate of one every ten minutes.

Over the same period, prisons recorded a total of 33,803 assault incidents. This included 10,085 assaults on staff – a 29 per cent rise compared to the figure recorded for the 12 months to the end of September 2017.

Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “No one should be so desperate while in the care of the state that they decide to take their own life. It is a national scandal that the number of prisoners losing their lives through suicide has risen again.

“Particularly concerning is the growing number of people, including several men in their twenties, who have died in as yet unexplained circumstances. One cannot begin to imagine the pain this is causing to grieving families who still do not know how or why their loved ones died.

“Ministers have announced their intention to reform sentencing, and the harrowing statistics published today show why action is needed so urgently. Bold steps to further reduce the prison population would save lives, protect staff and prevent more people being swept into deeper currents of crime, violence and despair.”

*  Download Safety in Custody quarterly: update to September 2018 and associated documents here

* Howard League for Penal Reform https://howardleague.org/

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