1 November 2019

The latest statistics released by the Ministry of Justice in October 2019 show that there are four self-inflicted deaths in prison every week, which continues the historically high levels of self-inflicted deaths as seen over the past six years. They also show record high levels of self-harm, up 22% to 60,594 in the 12 months to June 2019.

INQUEST responded:

"These statistics are more than numbers. They represent real people in extreme distress, leading to preventable deaths and traumatic bereavement for families. As a society we should not accept this endless cycle of systemic neglect and political indifference. Bereaved families deserve more than repetitive platitudes that ‘lessons will be learned’, when they consistently are not. The lack of accountability for these deaths, and the abject failure of the system to prevent them, is a moral and political disgrace." 

Statistics were also published on the deaths of people after release from prison. The number of deaths of people under post-release supervision in the community increased drastically by 38%, from 374 in 2017/18 to 515 in 2018/19. Unlike deaths in prison, deaths in the community are not subject to independent investigation.

INQUEST told the Guardian and Independent

"People are being released into failling support systems, poverty and an absence of services for mental health and addictions. This is state abandonment. This is the violence of austerity."

A joint report by the Prison Reform Trust, Pact (the Prison Advice and Care Trust) and INQUEST, was also published. It reveals that most prisons in England and Wales are failing in their duty to ensure that emergency phone lines are in place for families to share urgent concerns about self-harm and suicide risks of relatives in prison.

Deborah Coles told the Daily Mail and Somerset Live:

"The safety and wellbeing of prisoners is put at risk when families and friends are unable to share urgent safeguarding information with the prison. The ability of a family to contact prisons to raise concerns about their relative can be the difference between life and death. We hope that the recommendations of this new report are implemented and do not gather dust".

Read more: INQUEST responds to 'disturbing' statistics on deaths of people in prison and after release, media release

Further coverage in the media:

  • Self-harming in prisons at record high in England and Wales with new incident every ten minutes, The Independent
  • Self-inflicted deaths among offenders on probation rise by a fifth, Guardian
  • Hundreds dying in prison and after being released from custody, Morning Star
  • Prison violence continues to soar as self-harming hits new high, Evening Express, The Argus
  • Prison welfare hotlines are failing to answer calls from concerned relatives reporting fears about suicidal inmates because the system needs overhaul, report claims, Daily Mail
  • Prison suicide hotline is going unanswered, new research shows, Somerset Live