Frances Crook's blog · 31 Oct 2016
A plan to save lives in prison
Since the new Secretary of State for Justice was appointed in July, 26 men and women have taken their own lives in prison. They all hanged themselves.
Suicides in prison are now at epidemic proportions with someone dying every three days and it is getting worse day by day.
The Secretary of State is about to announce her plans to reform the prison system by publishing a White Paper, with legislation anticipated next year. This is welcome news. But, we cannot wait for grand plans to wend their way through Parliament. Something must be done now.
The latest figures published by the Ministry of Justice on deaths, self-injury and assaults reveal the bloodbath being experienced by prisons. There are 65 assaults and 100 incidents of self-injury every day.
Imagine going to work in a prison and having to face the prospect of cutting someone down or finding they had cut their wrists and the cell you have just opened up is spattered with blood.
I have a meeting with Liz Truss in a couple of weeks and the Howard League is going to recommend action that can ease the pressure on the system quickly.
Imagine opening a cell door a finding one cell mate has battered another, after being locked up for weeks on end with virtually no respite, no daylight or exercise and not enough food.
The Howard League published a detailed plan of action to deal with the immediate emergency and to resolve deep-seated problems as part of last year’s spending review. Nothing was done.
A year later and the need for action has become even more desperate. I have a meeting with Liz Truss in a couple of weeks and the Howard League is going to recommend action that can ease the pressure on the system quickly.
Everyone must play their part. We cannot leave it up to politicians to legislate. The courts, parole board, probation and private companies supervising people in the community must all play their part in keeping people safe through the exercise of self-restraint.
All these bodies must recognise that they have contributed to the problem and they can be part of the solution. The Howard League is going to publish a plan to help them.