INQUEST response to ‘Safety in Custody’ Statistics Bulletin Ministry of Justice March/June 2016.

28 July 2016

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said:

“In the past 12 months the prison system has lurched from crisis to crisis contributing to a culture where often vulnerable people increasingly self harm and take their own lives. These shocking statistics belie any suggestion that the government is successfully pursuing a reform agenda. Assaults, self harm, self inflicted deaths, homicides are an endemic and ever-rising feature of the prison system, reflecting the desperate reality of prison life and the lamentable failure of the state to protect those in its care. Prisons are places where the safety and dignity of prisoners is increasingly under threat. Every day INQUEST hears harrowing stories from the families of those who have died that reveal failures in treatment and care. The most troubling aspect of our work is the chronic failure of state bodies to act on the compelling evidence from investigations, inquests, government reviews and families themselves. There needs to be a dramatic reduction in the use of prison, a redirection of resources into community alternatives, and into providing public funding for the families of the deceased, a willingness to act on learning from previous deaths and to hold those involved legally accountable for deaths across all state institutions. Without urgent action the endemic problem of death and self harm will continue with devastating consequences for prisoners and their families.”

“Nearly 10 years on from the Corston  review which followed disquiet over deaths of six women in Styal prison it is shocking to see that 11 women have taken their own lives in prison over the last year, 10% of the overall total number of self inflicted deaths despite being less than 5% of the prison population.  The same women that Baroness Corston recommended should be diverted from the prison system are still filling up women’s prisons. The shocking rate of self harm and death is the deadly consequence of imprisoning vulnerable women into prisons that cannot keep them safe and must prompt an urgent review by the Justice Secretary.”


Full access to the Ministry of Justice report can be found here.




For further information, please contact: [email protected]

INQUEST provides specialist advice on deaths in custody or detention or involving state failures in England and Wales. This includes a death in prison, in police custody or following police contact, in immigration detention or psychiatric care. INQUEST's policy and parliamentary work is informed by its casework and we work to ensure that the collective experiences of bereaved people underpin that work. Its overall aim is to secure an investigative process that treats bereaved families with dignity and respect; ensures accountability and disseminates the lessons learned from the investigation process in order to prevent further deaths.

Please refer to INQUEST the organisation in all capital letters in order to distinguish it from the legal hearing.