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28 Mar 2017

Howard League responds to PPO learning lessons bulletin on suicide in women’s prisons

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to a learning lessons bulletin on self-inflicted deaths among female prisoners, published today (Tuesday 28 March) by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO).

The review was prompted by a rise in the number of women who have died by suicide in prison. Drawing on its investigations into 19 cases between 2013 and 2016, the PPO concludes that prison staff must take action to prevent further tragedies.

Twelve women in prison lost their lives through suicide in 2016 – more than twice the number of women who took their own lives during the previous year. So far in 2017, one woman in prison is understood to have lost her life through suicide.

The bulletin comes 10 years after the publication of a seminal report by Baroness Corston, who found that prison was inappropriate for many of the women held there.

While the majority of her 43 recommendations received cross-party support, the sweeping whole-system reform that Baroness Corston envisaged has yet to be delivered.

Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Ten years have passed since the publication of The Corston Report, an inquiry that was commissioned in response to the high number of women who had lost their lives through suicide in prison.

“Today, the death toll is even higher, and this horrifying rise shows no sign of abating. As the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman points out, the same mistakes are being made and the problem is getting worse. Too many of the women in this bulletin suffered from mental health problems and yet were in prison for non-violent offences.

“The government’s response must address the intolerable conditions for both women and men in prison, for 2016 saw more people taking their own lives behind bars than in any other year on record.

“By taking bold but sensible steps to reduce the number of people in prison, we can save lives and prevent more people being swept away into deeper currents of crime and despair.”

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Women in the Penal System, which is co-chaired by Baroness Corston and receives administrative support from the Howard League, is to conduct an inquiry into progress made in the 10 years since The Corston Report was published.

The Howard League has also worked with another charity, Centre for Mental Health, on a joint programme on preventing people from dying by suicide in prison. Reports published as part of this programme have studied issues including prison culture, prisoner-staff relationships and the financial cost of suicide in custody.

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  1. The Howard League and another charity, Centre for Mental Health, have worked together on a joint programme on preventing people from dying by suicide in prison. Further information about the programme can be found online.
  1. The All Party Parliament Group on Women in the Penal System is to conduct an inquiry into progress made in the 10 years since The Corston Report was published. Further information about the group can be found online.
  1. The Corston Report can be read online.
  1. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman’s learning lessons bulletin, Self-inflicted deaths among female prisoners, will be online from Tuesday 28 March 2017.

Contact

Rob Preece
Campaigns and Communications Manager
Tel: +44 (0)20 7241 7880
Mobile: +44 (0)7714 604955
Email: robert.preece@howardleague.org

ISDN line available on 020 7923 4196 – uses a G722 system

For enquiries outside normal office hours, please call +44 (0)7918 681094

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