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Self-Inflicted Prisoner Deaths Continue to Rise in Great Britain

by Derek Gilna

Self-inflicted prisoner deaths continued to rise in Great Britain in 2013. 74 prisoners either committed suicide or died accidentally due to their own actions.  There were an additional 123 deaths from natural causes, 4 apparent killings, and 14 unclassified prisoner deaths.

The British Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has compiled statistics that show that prisoners are most at risk early in their confinement, before they have made the psychological adjustment to being jail.  One of the British prisoners committed suicide on his very first day in custody.

According to critics of the MOJ, we should all be alarmed that more people died in prisons last year than ever before.  It’s worrying that the lessons of previous deaths in custody are being ignored.  Ministers need urgently to address this problem, find out what the causes are, and do all they can to make sure this tragic statistic is never repeated.

MOJ statistics reported, “Death in prison custody increased to 215 in 2013--the highest number of deaths recorded in prison custody in any calendar year--from 198 in 2012.  The death rate in 2013 increased to 2.55 deaths per 1,000 prisons compared with 2.23 in 2012.” The figures illustrated that the highest percentage of self-inflicted deaths happen when the prisoner is first locked up, with 30% of the total deaths occurring within the first 30 days of custody.

Clearly, more effort has to be put into reforming the early stages of the incarceration process, and not just express regret over the obvious failure of current intake procedures.  We must, said Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, “act without delay to restore safety and decency in prisons across England and Wales.”

See: “Prison deaths reach record high,”, April 24, 2014