News

Prison suicides hit ten-year high

Report highlights ‘bleak reality’, with an average of one suicide in prison every three days.
Prisoner

More prisoners have killed themselves this year than ever before, according to a new report from the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Centre for Mental Health.

Between the beginning of 2016 and November 28, 102 people died by suicide behind bars, one every three days on average.

Devastating consequences

RCN professional lead for criminal justice Ann Norman said the report highlights the bleak reality for people in prisons who have mental health problems, and its devastating consequences.

Suicide in prison is now at a ten-year high, Ms Norman said. Current conditions are far from the safe, healthy environment that prisoners need and these are having a huge detrimental impact on their mental health.

She said morale in prison healthcare teams is low

More prisoners have killed themselves this year than ever before, according to a new report from the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Centre for Mental Health.


The prison suicide rate is ten times higher than the rate in the general population. Picture: Alamy

Between the beginning of 2016 and November 28, 102 people died by suicide behind bars, one every three days on average.

Devastating consequences

RCN professional lead for criminal justice Ann Norman said the report highlights the ‘bleak reality’ for people in prisons who have mental health problems, and its devastating consequences.

‘Suicide in prison is now at a ten-year high,’ Ms Norman said. ‘Current conditions are far from the safe, healthy environment that prisoners need and these are having a huge detrimental impact on their mental health.’

She said morale in prison healthcare teams is low as staff shortages increased the pressure they are under.

‘Prisons need a workforce with the right skills and abilities to manage this critical problem,’ Ms Norman said.

The report, Preventing Prison Suicide, reveals that the suicide rate among prisoners at 120 deaths per 100,000 people, is about ten times higher than the rate in the general population.

Urgent action

It says urgent action is needed to make prisons safe, healthier places, and highlights the fact that the rise in the number of suicides has coincided with cuts to staffing and budgets and a rise in the prison population. ‘Violence has increased and safety has deteriorated,’ the report says.

Howard League for Penal Reform chief executive officer Frances Crook said: ‘No one should be so desperate while in the care of the state that they take their own life, and yet every three days a family is told that a loved one has died behind bars.’

To see the report go to howardleague.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Preventing-prison-suicide-report.pdf

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