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20 Jan 2014

Urgent call for action as prison suicides soar and homicide rate reaches highest level for 15 years

Netting in Wandsworth prison

The Howard League for Penal Reform today called for urgent action after figures for 2013 showed a sharp rise in the number of suspected murders and self-inflicted deaths behind bars.

Data compiled by the charity reveals that there were four alleged homicides in prisons in England and Wales – the most in a calendar year since 1998.

In total, 199 deaths were reported during 2013, of which 70 were self-inflicted – the highest rate in six years.

More than 100 prisoners died of natural causes, and a further 22 deaths are yet to be classified by prison authorities.

The statistics are based on notifications from the Ministry of Justice, which records deaths in custody.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Each death in custody is a tragedy and almost all of them are preventable. The responsibility for an increase in the number of people who take their own lives in prison lies squarely with those who advocate putting behind bars more and more people who do not need to be there. This is the consequence of a policy that squanders a scarce resource, meaning that these institutions cannot keep people safe.”

The four prisons where homicides were allegedly committed in 2013 are Hewell, near Redditch, Worcestershire; Long Lartin, near Evesham, Worcestershire; Lincoln, Lincolnshire; and Lindholme, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire.

Five self-inflicted deaths were recorded at Wormwood Scrubs in London, and there were four at Woodhill, near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.

A further five prisons each recorded three self-inflicted deaths during the year. They were Hewell; Birmingham; Dovegate, near Uttoxeter, Staffordshire; Norwich, Norfolk; and Chelmsford, Essex.

Professor David Wilson, Vice Chair of the Howard League for Penal Reform, Professor of Criminology at Birmingham City University and a former prison governor, said: “This is the highest number of alleged murders since 1998 and it reflects deep structural problems about control and order inside our jails – not our most high-security jails, but every prison in which we currently lock people up. The prison service has a duty of care to prisoners that this murder rate suggests it cannot deliver.”

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. The statistics are based on notifications received by the Howard League for Penal Reform from the Ministry of Justice, which records deaths in custody.
  3. For detailed analysis of deaths in custody, read Wilson, David (2005) Death at the Hands of the State. London: The Howard League for Penal Reform.
  4. Deaths in custody data for 2013, broken down by prison, is shown in the table below. A prison’s ‘In Use CNA’ (Certified Normal Accommodation) is the prison service’s own measure of how many prisoners can be held in decent and safe accommodation.
Prison Total deaths Natural Self inflicted Not classified Homicide In Use CNA Population
Altcourse 4 2 2 0 0 794 1,033
Ashfield 0 0 0 0 0 408 400
Askham Grange 0 0 0 0 0 150 128
Aylesbury 0 0 0 0 0 411 444
Bedford 1 0 1 0 0 322 506
Belmarsh 3 0 2 1 0 781 855
Birmingham 4 1 3 0 0 1,093 1,450
Blantyre House 1 0 1 0 0 122 122
Blundeston 1 0 0 1 0 481 325
Brinsford 0 0 0 0 0 545 577
Bristol 1 0 1 0 0 427 639
Brixton 1 1 0 0 0 530 798
Bronzefield 1 1 0 0 0 527 527
Buckley Hall 0 0 0 0 0 410 445
Bullingdon 3 1 2 0 0 879 1,114
Bure 1 1 0 0 0 604 624
Cardiff 2 1 1 0 0 539 804
Channings Wood 4 4 0 0 0 698 731
Chelmsford 3 0 3 0 0 462 578
Coldingley 1 0 0 1 0 493 513
Cookham Wood 0 0 0 0 0 143 143
Dartmoor 0 0 0 0 0 642 659
Deerbolt 0 0 0 0 0 513 513
Doncaster 0 0 0 0 0 738 1,145
Dorchester 2 1 0 1 0 152 122
Dovegate 3 0 3 0 0 1,064 1,060
Downview 2 1 1 0 0 355 80
Drake Hall 0 0 0 0 0 315 315
Durham 4** 1 2 1** 0 592 990
East Sutton Park 0 0 0 0 0 98 100
Eastwood Park 1 0 0 1 0 410 363
Elmley 2 0 2 0 0 943 1,252
Erlestoke 0 0 0 0 0 494 488
Everthorpe 0 0 0 0 0 615 689
Exeter 1 1 0 0 0 326 561
Featherstone 2 1 0 1 0 671 687
Feltham 0 0 0 0 0 762 762
Ford 0 0 0 0 0 521 521
Forest Bank 1 0 1 0 0 1,064 1,364
Foston Hall 0 0 0 0 0 290 310
Frankland 3 2 0 1 0 859 808
Full Sutton 4 4 0 0 0 604 616
Garth 0 0 0 0 0 811 750
Gartree 1 1 0 0 0 708 708
Glen Parva 2 0 2 0 0 637 808
Gloucester 1 0 1 0 0 225 300
Grendon 0 0 0 0 0 240 240
Guys Marsh 0 0 0 0 0 518 579
Haverigg 0 0 0 0 0 622 644
Hewell 5 0 3 1 1 1,003 1,271
High Down 5 4 1 0 0 999 1,103
Highpoint 3 2 1 0 0 1,299 1,325
Hindley 0 0 0 0 0 582 438
Hollesley Bay 0 0 0 0 0 421 421
Holloway 0 0 0 0 0 540 591
Holme House 8 5 2 1 0 1,034 1,210
Hull 1 1 0 0 0 552 762
Huntercombe 0 0 0 0 0 370 430
Isis 0 0 0 0 0 478 622
Isle of Wight 10 9 1 0 0 1,056 1,139
Kennet 0 0 0 0 0 175 342
Kingston 0 0 0 0 0 204 199
Kirkham 1 1 0 0 0 632 630
Kirklevington Grange 0 0 0 0 0 283 283
Lancaster Farms 0 0 0 0 0 481 531
Leeds 2 2 0 0 0 826 1,212
Leicester 1 1 0 0 0 214 408
Lewes 1 0 0 1 0 627 742
Leyhill 3 3 0 0 0 527 527
Lincoln 3* 1 1 0 1* 408 727
Lindholme 1* 0 0 0 1* 1,048 1,005
Littlehey 0 0 0 0 0 1,140 1,146
Liverpool 4 3 1 0 0 1,173 1,442
Long Lartin 5* 2 1 1 1* 629 622
Low Newton 1 0 1 0 0 314 329
Lowdham Grange 1 0 0 1 0 900 888
Maidstone 3 2 1 0 0 565 600
Manchester 1 0 1 0 0 965 1,286
Moorland 2 2 0 0 0 1,209 1,272
Mount 1 0 1 0 0 748 770
New Hall 1 0 0 1 0 395 425
North Sea Camp 1 1 0 0 0 420 420
Northallerton 0 0 0 0 0 146 75
Northumberland 3 1 1 1 0 1,354 1,348
Norwich 7 4 3 0 0 627 769
Nottingham 3 0 1 2 0 723 1,100
Oakwood 0 0 0 0 0 1,605 1,603
Onley 0 0 0 0 0 742 682
Parc 7 7 0 0 0 1,170 1,336
Pentonville 1 0 1 0 0 915 1,310
Peterborough (men) 1 0 1 0 0 624 624
Peterborough (women) 0 0 0 0 0 360 359
Portland 1 0 1 0 0 464 620
Preston 5 4 1 0 0 456 743
Ranby 3 0 2 1 0 893 1,098
Reading 0 0 0 0 0 190 135
Risley 3 3 0 0 0 1,050 1,095
Rochester 0 0 0 0 0 802 662
Rye Hill 0 0 0 0 0 600 625
Send 0 0 0 0 0 282 281
Spring Hill 1 0 1 0 0 314 300
Stafford 1 1 0 0 0 741 741
Standford Hill 0 0 0 0 0 464 464
Stocken 1 0 0 1 0 768 843
Stoke Heath 1 0 1 0 0 650 642
Styal 0 0 0 0 0 454 460
Sudbury 1 0 0 1 0 581 581
Swaleside 2 1 0 1 0 1,112 1,112
Swansea 0 0 0 0 0 248 445
Swinfen Hall 0 0 0 0 0 604 594
Thameside 2 1 1 0 0 600 900
Thorn Cross 0 0 0 0 0 322 321
Usk/Prescoed 2 2 0 0 0 378 503
Verne 0 0 0 0 0 580 0
Wakefield 5 5 0 0 0 751 749
Wandsworth 0 0 0 0 0 974 1,284
Warren Hill 0 0 0 0 0 244 192
Wayland 0 0 0 0 0 958 1,011
Wealstun 1 0 1 0 0 810 817
Werrington 0 0 0 0 0 160 160
Wetherby 0 0 0 0 0 396 276
Whatton 3 3 0 0 0 779 841
Whitemoor 1 0 1 0 0 473 458
Winchester 4 3 0 1 0 499 685
Wolds 0 0 0 0 0 320 360
Woodhill 5 1 4 0 0 660 819
Wormwood Scrubs 6 1 5 0 0 1,170 1,279
Wymott 4 3 2 0 0 1,102 1,111
TOTAL 199* 103 70 22** 4*

*Total includes suspected homicides which have been reported by the media but are yet to be confirmed by the National Offender Management Service.

**Total includes a death at Durham prison that has been reported by the media but is yet to be confirmed by NOMS.

In addition to the 199 deaths listed above, the Howard League is aware of the self-inflicted death of a prisoner who was ‘unlawfully at large’ from Ford prison in December 2013.

Contact

Rob Preece
Press Officer
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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