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15 Mar 2016

Woodhill prison: Where 11 prisoners have taken their own lives since 2012

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Woodhill prison, published today (Tuesday 15 March).

Inspectors visited the prison in September last year and, although there had been some improvements, they were concerned to find that violence was common and a high number of prisoners had taken their own lives.

In their report, inspectors said that nine prisoners at Woodhill had taken their own lives since 2012. Since the inspection, the Howard League has learned of two more tragedies, bringing the total number of people who have died by suicide to 11.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “No one should be so desperate whilst they are in the care of the state that they take their own life. The Prime Minister has recognised that prisons are failing and wholesale reform is needed. Reducing the prison population is the key to preventing more unnecessary pain and suffering. The government has plans to build new prisons. But experience has shown that you cannot build your way out of an overcrowding crisis, and hundreds more could die before they are completed.”

Figures published by the Ministry of Justice in January revealed that deaths by suicide in prisons in England and Wales have risen by 46 per cent in the last three years.

The sharp increase has come as prisons have struggled to cope with growing numbers of prisoners, chronic overcrowding and deep staff cuts.

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

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 Woodhill inspection report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from Tuesday 15 March.


Rob Preece
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