Suicides among male prisoners reaching an 'all-time high,' says penal reform campaigner

Campaigner blames the rise on overcrowding and staff cuts in the prison system

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The Independent Online

Suicides among men in prison could be reaching an all-time high as more than twenty inmates are reported to have taken their own lives since May, a leading penal reform campaigner has claimed.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the oldest penal reform charity in the UK, the Howard League for Penal Reform, has called on the country’s prison population to be reduced as soon as possible in order to bring the number of suicides down.

Following an independent review into why self-inflicted deaths are occurring in British prisons, the campaigner said overcrowding and understaffed local prisons, along with staff cuts, are causing the number to rise.

In an online blog, Crook said: “Staff don’t have time to get to know people and prisoners don’t have time to get to know staff.”

She added that the men find themselves locked in their cells for most of the time because “there are only a handful of support staff on duty at night doing patrols.”

“This is a sad existence,” she said.

Having met with the Secretary of State to discuss the ‘prison crisis’, Crook said that too many men, women and children are being sent to prison on remand and added: “70 per cent of those remanded by magistrates’ courts are found not guilty or are given a community sentence.

“Secondly, something must be done to improve the release process for long-term prisoners.”

As well as a rise in the number of suicides, another report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman found other inmates’ deaths being linked to drug-taking and that five people have been killed in prisons so far this year.

Crook described how a suicide in prison is a lonely and desperate act, and added: “It should never happen.”

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