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16 Feb 2016

Preventing suicide in prison: PPO bulletin emphasises the need for bold action

Netting in Wandsworth prison

The Howard League for Penal Reform has today (Tuesday 16 February) responded to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman’s bulletin on the lessons that can be learned from investigations into the self-inflicted deaths of prisoners within the first month of custody.

The bulletin studies 132 investigations undertaken by the ombudsman into the deaths of prisoners who took their own lives between April 2012 and March 2014. Forty of these prisoners died within their first 30 days in custody.

The Howard League and Centre for Mental Health are working together on a joint programme on preventing people from dying by suicide in prison.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “It is well known that people entering an institution are particularly vulnerable. It is therefore concerning that recommendations have to be repeated because they have not been acted on. Meanwhile, people are dying. We are waiting for bold action to address the prison crisis as the only way to save lives, reduce reoffending and make prisons safer is to reduce the number of people detained.”

The Howard League has published has published a research briefing, The cost of prison suicide, which examines the financial impact that a prisoner’s death by suicide can have on public services in England and Wales.

It sets out how the response to a death in custody puts pressure on numerous services – including the prisons themselves, police and local authorities – and shows how that money could be better spent on measures to prevent people taking their own lives in the first place.

The briefing paper states that factors such as staff cuts and overcrowding are having a negative effect on suicide prevention measures in prisons, including training.

It will be discussed by justice, health and home office ministers and senior managers from the prison service at the next meeting of the Ministerial Board on Deaths in Custody, scheduled for Tuesday 1 March.

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.
  2. A copy of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman’s bulletin will be available from Tuesday 16 February at: www.ppo.gov.uk
  3. The Howard League and Centre for Mental Health are working together on a joint programme on preventing people from dying by suicide in prison. Further information about the programme can be found here.
  4. The Howard League’s briefing paper, The cost of prison suicide, can be read online here.

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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