People dying because of staff cuts

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THE number of people who have died, been assaulted or injured themselves in prison has risen to its highest level for a decade, figures seen by the Howard League for Penal Reform revealed yesterday.

Statistics published by the Ministry of Justice show that 267 people died in prisons in England and Wales in the 12 months to the end of September 2015. This number includes seven homicides, more than double the number recorded in any year since 2006.

The figures show that 186 prisoners took their own lives between October 2013 and September 2015. The number of self-injury incidents recorded in prisons in England and Wales rose by 21 per cent in the 12 months to the end of June 2015. The number of serious assaults on prisoners and staff rose by 31 per cent and 42 per cent respectively over the same period.

The increase in the number of deaths, assaults and self-injury incidents has occurred at a time when the prison population has risen, overcrowding has become more acute and there have been deep cuts to staffing levels. The Howard League and Centre for Mental Health have embarked on a joint programme of work on suicides in prison, supported by The Monument Trust, designed to find ways to end the death toll for good.

Slamming ‘these horrendous statistics’ Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: ‘It is surely evident that people are dying as a result of the cuts to the number of staff, particularly more experienced staff, in every prison.’ He added: ‘Radical reform is required, or the human cost of our failing prisons will continue to rise.’

The Howard League’s revelations came as Lord Harris warned that young people will ‘continue to die unnecessarily’ in jail unless ministers act on recommendations in his report into self-inflicted deaths. The peer said he was ‘frustrated’ by the lack of action after his year-long review of self-inflicted deaths among 18-24-year-olds, submitted over six months ago.

His report Changing Prisons, Saving Lives, which was submitted to the Ministry of Justice in April then published in July, said rehabilitation was failing and recommended more help for young inmates, including from family. INQUEST director Deborah Coles said: ‘There has been a radio silence from the government which is shocking.’

Coles, who gave evidence to the review, added: ‘The self-inflicted deaths have continued. There have already been 69 this year, 12 of which have been 24 and under, and the same concerns and questions keep coming up.’