2.The number of self-inflicted deaths in prison has risen steadily from 58 in 2010 to 119 in 2016, the highest number since records began in 1978.1 There has been a particularly sharp increase in the number of self-inflicted deaths in the female estate, up from five in 2015 to 12 in 2016 (the highest on record since 2003).2 The rise in self-harm and suicide in prisons has been described by the Chief Inspector of Prisons as “shocking”, with the death toll predicted to continue to rise in view of the “unacceptably violent and dangerous places” that prisons have become.3
3.The Government has acknowledged the gravity of the problem. On 3 November 2016 the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon Liz Truss MP, published a White Paper on prison safety and reform, and announced immediate measures intended to improve prison safety.4 The Government announced the recruitment of 2,500 additional prison officers, and that every offender will have a dedicated prison officer offering regular one-to-one support. It also promised robust action to tackle emerging threats to safety in prison, in particular psychoactive substances, mobile phones and the use of drones to smuggle things into prisons.
1 Ministry of Justice Deaths in Prison Custody 1978–2016 Table 1.1 Deaths by cause and calendar year
2 Ministry of Justice Deaths in Prison Custody 1978–2016 Table 1.2 Deaths by gender
3 HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales, Annual Report 2015–16, HC 471, July 2016, pp 8—9
29 April 2017