Prisoners who refused medical help near death

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Two prisoners trying to kill themselves by starvation and self-poisoning were close to death last night but jail staff have been prevented by the courts from coming to their aid.

Two prisoners trying to kill themselves by starvation and self-poisoning were close to death last night but jail staff have been prevented by the courts from coming to their aid.

One inmate, who is held in a high-security unit at a prison in the Home Counties, is suffering from severe blood poisoning after deliberately infecting a wound in his leg. He will be offered amputation of his leg and buttock this week in an effort to save his life.

A second prisoner, a Turkish national, is barely alive after refusing food and fluids at Frankland prison, County Durham, and not allowing medical staff to treat him.

In a separate incident last week at Blakenhurst prison, Worcestershire, an inmate gouged out his eye in a deliberate act of self-harm. Five other prisoners killed themselves at prisons in London, Milton Keynes, Cardiff, Chelmsford and Stockton-on-Tees.

Amnesty International joined Prison Service staff and senior managers yesterday in warning that conditions were becoming intolerable in the chronically overcrowded jails of England and Wales, where the inmate population is above 70,000 for the first time in penal history.

Amnesty said: "The recent prison suicide toll is a grim demonstration of the fact that suicide-prevention and medical treatment as a preventive method need to be higher priorities. Taken as a whole, the prison system is in poor health and the human rights of inmates are at risk."

Martin Narey, director general of the Prison Service, is concerned that jail suicides will reach a record high this year despite his pledges to reduce deaths in custody. Mr Narey told a Downing Street seminar last week that overcrowding was driving up the number of deaths in prison. He is also worried by the number of people with severe mental illness who are being held in overstretched prisons.

Mr Narey paid a visit recently to the jail where the prisoner is dying from blood poisoning. The prisoner, a 30-year-old psychopath, was granted permission to die by the High Court last month after he infected himself.

The prisoner, who committed murder after being jailed for another offence, claims he is being denied treatment for his mental disorder and wants to die.

He told Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, the president of the Family Division, that he had been mutilating his right leg since December in the hope that the wound would turn septic and cause his death. "I am doing this because of the conditions I am kept in," he said. "I am banged up 23 hours a day in my cell and have never been given any help with my problems."

The prisoner cut his leg last December using porcelain broken from a lavatory before forcing faeces and pieces of metal into the wound.

The Turkish-born inmate at Frankland prison has also been given legal protection against being kept alive. A court ruled that he could not be force fed.

* A riot by 49 prisoners at Saughton prison, Edinburgh, ended after 14 hours yesterday. Police were called to the jail after inmates barricaded themselves inside a remand wing.There were no reports of injuries.