21st October 2014

The HM Inspectorate of Prisons has today published its annual report on the conditions of prisons across England and Wales, highlighting a series of policy and institutional failures which are risking the safety of the most vulnerable prisoners. The report follows a series of equally damning reviews on the lack of accountability among prisons, institutional inertia and staff incompetence.

In this report, Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons pointed to the significant reductions in public budgets of which £84 million was saved in public sector prison running costs and £88 million on the closure of older prisons. On the back of these spending cuts, there was a significant loss of more experienced staff, resulting in staff shortages and poorly trained prison officers.

The reported noted a rise in self inflicted deaths by 69% from 52 in 2012-13 to 88 in 2013-14, the highest figure in 10 years. INQUEST’s statistical monitoring also reveals 63 self inflicted deaths this year alone, many who are young individuals with a range of vulnerabilities and mental health problems.

Following a spate of recommendations put forward by a range of bodies, including the Prison and Probation Ombudsman, HMIP reports and ministerial panels, it is shocking to see the same issues being raised time and time again.

INQUEST Co-Director Deborah Coles said:

"Reading this report feels like groundhog day. It is a devastating indictment of government penal policy. Warnings about the risks to prisoner and staff safety have been repeatedly made by inspection and monitoring bodies, Coroners and charities yet have been ignored.  Inquest’s work on self-inflicted deaths in prison has revealed the same systemic failings over and over again. This is a national scandal presided over by a Justice Secretary and Ministers refusing to accept their responsibility.

Prisons are places where the right to life is under serious threat and deaths will continue until there is a drastic reduction in their use."