Jail overcrowding blamed for suicides

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The Independent Online
PENAL REFORM groups last night warned that overcrowding was behind the record number of young offenders who have committed suicide in jail so far this year.

According to figures obtained by the Independent 11 people have hanged themselves in British jails this year, mostly in young offenders' institutions.

Critics of the Government's penal policies are alarmed at the sudden rise in prison suicides among the young because the number of deaths had fallen over recent years, with a total of only 15 deaths among inmates under 21 in the past three years.

Of the 11, five have committed suicide in young offenders' institutes, and one in a remand centre. Five were in adult jails. The record number of deaths in England, Wales and Scotland for one year is 13, in 1989.

This total is expected to be passed this year because there is usually a marked increase over Christmas when the pressures and isolation of being locked up are most acutely felt. There have been 40 deaths in all penal institutions in Britain so far in 1994.

Deborah Coles, co-director of Inquest, which monitors deaths in custody, said: 'The scandal of youth suicides bears chilling testimony to the consequences of sending young people to prison.'

'Victim ignored', page 2

Leading article, page 9

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