THE LATEST SAFETY IN CUSTODY STATISTICS have been published by the Ministry of Justice.

The figures show that 288 people died in prison custody in the 12 months to the end of June 2022, including 66 who lost their lives through suicide. This is a 27 per cent reduction on the previous 12 months, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, when 395 people died.

The bulletin states that prisons recorded 53,754 incidents of self-harm in the 12 months to the end of March 2022, at a rate of one every 10 minutes. The number of incidents rose by three per cent in men’s prisons and seven per cent in women’s prisons.

Over the same period, prisons recorded 20,077 assaults – a 13 per cent rise on the figures for the previous 12 months.

Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Today’s figures show a complicated picture of a struggling prison system. While fewer people have died in custody than when the Covid-19 pandemic was at its height, it is concerning to see self-harm rising again.

“The picture is particularly worrying in women’s prisons, where rates of self-harm and assault are higher than among men. It provides further evidence that prisons fail to meet the complex needs of women, many of whom have been victims of crime and abuse themselves. Women who are vulnerable need a safe space, not a cell.

“With a new Prime Minister about to be chosen, there is an opportunity to change direction and prevent more suffering. Shelving plans to expand the prison system, including a projected 40 per cent rise in the number of women behind bars, would save lives, protect staff and guide more people away from crime and despair.”

The Howard League and another charity, Centre for Mental Health, worked together on a joint programme on preventing people losing their lives through suicide in prison. Further information about the programme can be found here.

* Read Safety in custody quarterly: update to March 2022 here.

* Source: Howard League for Penal Reform