A prisoner dies by suicide every three days in England and Wales – new figures
There are new calls for prison reform as a report claims the number of suicides has reached an all-time high.
A prisoner takes their own life every three days in England and Wales, new figures show.
In 2015, 89 people took their own lives behind bars. However, this year that figure has risen significantly to 105 people.
The Howard League for Penal Reform, which has released the figures, says the rise in prison suicides coincides with cuts to prison staffing and budgets, along with an increase in the number of people in prison, resulting in overcrowding.
Campaigners are warning that jails are in crisis because inmates are being left in their cells for long periods of time, due to a lack of staff. It means they get very little exercise and become stressed and frustrated easily.
Janet Farrar’s son, Stephen, took his own life in 2013. He was on remand for theft at HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes, which has seen the highest number of suicides of any prison this year.
Mrs Farrar told Sky News: “It was Friday 13th, December 2013, and I had a phone call from my daughter, who was hysterical.
“She could barely get the words out to say Stephen’s hung himself. I was at work at the time. I couldn’t believe it. I ran around the office screaming.”
Following Stephen’s death, a coroner ruled that action needed to be taken to prevent similar incidents happening in the future. However, 11 more men have taken their own life at HMP Woodhill since then.
In recent months, there have been a number of worrying disturbances at prisons across the UK, including a riot which broke out at Bedford Prison earlier this month. Around 200 inmates went on the rampage, with the footage being filmed on camera.
Andrew Neilson, from the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Prisons are not safe, we’ve seen big rises in other barometers of prison safety such as assaults, self-harm incidents, related obviously to suicide, and all of these have seen big rises… it’s hard to escape a conclusion that staff cuts have contributed in a way.”
The Government says mental health in custody is taken seriously. Staff are given specialist training and there is now extra funding for prison safety, it adds.
However, campaigners are warning that suicides in jails have reached “epidemic proportions”. They want change, and soon.
:: Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can also call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org in the UK.