MORE THAN 300 people died in prisons in England and Wales last year, official data published on 26 January reveals. The statistical bulletin from the Ministry of Justice shows that 301 people in prison custody died in 2022, including 74 people whose deaths were recorded as ‘self-inflicted’.

These figures are lower than in 2021, when 371 people died – the highest number in a calendar year since current recording practices began.

The bulletin states that prisons recorded 54,761 incidents of self-harm in the 12 months to the end of September 2022, at a rate of one every nine-and-a-half minutes. Self-harm incidents rose by one per cent in men’s prisons and 18 per cent in women’s prisons.

Over the same period, prisons recorded 20,872 assaults – an 11 per cent rise on the figures for the previous 12 months.

Andrea Coomber KC (Hon.), Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “These grim figures lay bare the scale of the mental health crisis in prisons across England and Wales. The alarming rate of self-harm incidents – one every nine-and-a-half minutes – should alert everyone to the intolerable conditions faced by people living and working behind bars.

She continued: “While the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic appears to be behind us, six people die in prison each week. Although restrictions in the community were eased long ago, thousands of men and women in prison remain locked in their cells for more than 20 hours each day. The number of people held on remand is at its highest level for more than half a century. The damage caused by all this is widespread, and yet still not fully understood.

“As the government presses ahead with its wrong-headed plans, building more prisons with no thought for the consequences, these tragedies lie forgotten in the background. The Howard League will keep bringing them to the fore,” said Ms Coomber.

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

* Source: Howard League for Penal Reform