Figures compiled by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveal that suicides by prison inmates in England and Wales is at a tragic seven year high. The Howard League collated the figures via notifications from the Ministry of Justice about individual prison deaths.
The figures follow a report by the independent Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, which called the rise in self-inflicted deaths as “of most concern”. In the report, Nick Hardwick observed, “it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the conjunction of resource, population and policy pressures…was a very significant factor in the rapid deterioration in safety and other outcomes we found as the year progressed.”
The more recent figures collated by the Howard League show that in 2014 235 people died in prisons in England and Wales, and place the reason for the rise in deaths due to staff cuts and a rising prison population:
“It is evident that people are dying as a direct result of the cuts to the number of staff, particularly more experienced staff, in every prison. The government has chosen to allow the prison population to increase whilst it cuts staff, and that has led to an increase in people dying by suicide.”
The prison ombudsman has released a separate report calling on authorities to do more to prevent suicides among Romany Gypsy and Irish Travellers, who are over-represented in the prison population.
Finally, the Autumn 2014 installment of the Prison Reform Trust’s regular overview of the UK prison system, the ‘Bromley Briefings‘, found that we have “a public prison service cut by £263m in three years, struggling to cope with the loss of more than 12,500 (28 per cent) of its staff since 2010 and an ever-rising prison population.”
The government must act urgently to address this deplorable situation and ensure the prison system is properly staffed, funded and safe. We need a system where justice is delivered fairly, efficiently and professionally for victims, citizens, taxpayers and the wider community.