HMP Wandsworth criticised for ‘desperate’ state of prisoners as suicides behind bars rise dramatically

Three prisoners committed suicide in HMP Wandsworth last year as fears grow about the upward trend of self-harm in prisons across England and Wales.

Data compiled by the Howard League for Penal Reform, in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice, revealed deaths by suicide have risen by 46% in the last three years.

The charity claims the deaths are a direct result to cuts to the number of prison staff, and the MoJ says one third of prisons they inspected were deemed insufficient for adult safety.

Rob Preece, campaigns and communications manager at the Howard League said: “No one should be so desperate whilst they are in the care of the state that they take their own life.

“Three people have taken their own lives in Wandsworth prison – one of the most overcrowded prisons in the country in the last 12 months – that three is too many.”

Last year Wandsworth was discovered to be the second most overcrowded prison in the country, operating at 170% capacity.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League, added: “The numbers hide the true extent of misery for prisoners and families – and for staff, who have been given the impossible task of keeping people safe in overcrowded prisons starved of resources.

“The question now for the Ministry of Justice is: what to do? This level of deaths, violence and anguish in prisons cannot continue to rise in a civilised society.”

Ms Crook also said the government cannot go on cramming more offenders into prisons without any thought of the consequences.

Prisons Minister Andrew Selous said:We take our duty of care to prisoners extremely seriously. Staff provide support to prisoners at risk of self-harm and suicide every day, and work closely with health providers to ensure that prisoners receive appropriate healthcare.

“All deaths in custody are fully investigated by the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman and subject to a Coroner’s inquest.”

But according to the MoJ figures, the number of staff working at prisons has fallen by roughly 10,000, while the number of offenders has increased by approximately 5,000.

In 2014, out of the 235 deaths at prisons across England and Wales, 82 of them were recorded as suicides.

In January 2015 SWL reported that HMP Wandsworth had the highest suicide rates in the country.

But two months later, in March, it emerged prisoners were forced to share 6x10ft one-person cells and was housing 1,606 inmates when its capacity could only accommodate 943.

Horrific conditions such as these, along with those entering prison for the first time, is a recipe for disaster.

In the chief inspector of prisons annual report, one inmate said: “It doesn’t matter how many prisons you’ve been in, arrival at a new nick is one of the most stressful things you can go through.”

Picture courtesy of diamond geezer, with thanks

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