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News Archives: Index

October 7, 2010: Probation Set For Industrial Action

October 5, 2010: Turning Prisoners Into Taxpayers

October 4, 2010: Murder Changes Now In Force

September 20, 2010: Probation Programmes Face Cuts

August 24, 2010: Victorian Poor Law Records Online

August 10, 2010: Justice Job Cuts

July 28, 2010: Prison Violence Growing

July 22, 2010: Police Numbers: Latest Figures

July 22, 2010: New Jurisdiction Rules

July 16, 2010: CCJS On Prison And Probation Spending Under Labour

July 15, 2010: Latest Statistics On Violent And Sexual Crime

July 15, 2010: Latest National Crime Figures

July 15, 2010: New Chief Prisons Inspector

July 14, 2010: Hard Times Ahead For Prisons: Anne Owers

July 14, 2010: Prison Does Not Work: Ken Clarke

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform: Sentencing and Rehabilitation

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

July 12, 2010: What Price Public Protection, Asks Probation Chief Inspector

July 12, 2010: NOMS has failed, says Napo

July 10, 2010: IPCC To Investigate Death of Raoul Moat

July 9, 2010: Women In Prison: New Report

July 9, 2009: Unjust Deserts: Imprisonment for Public Protection

July 8, 2010: Police Search Powers Change

July 7, 2010: Make 'Legal High' Illegal, Says ACMD

July 2, 2010: Failing Children In Prison

July 2, 2010: Police Buried Under a Blizzard of Guidance: HMIC

July 1, 2010: Freedom To Change The Law?

June 30, 2010: A New Outlook On Penal Reform?

June 30, 2010: Revolving Door Of Offending Must Stop, Says Clarke

June 30, 2010: Ken Clarke: Speech on Criminal Justice Reform

June 29, 2010: No More Police Targets

June 26, 2010: Family Intervention Projects Questioned

June 25, 2010: Cutting Criminal Justice

June 24, 2010: Napo on Sex Offenders Report

June 23, 2010: Closing Courts: The Cuts Begin

June 23, 2010: Strategy To Tackle Gangs

June 15, 2010: Courts and Mentally Disordered Offenders

June 8, 2010: Working With Muslims in Prison

June 1, 2010: Your Chance To Nominate a QC

January 2, 2009: Prison Suicides Down

There were 61 apparent self-inflicted deaths among prisoners in England and Wales in 2008, according to figures just released by the Ministry of Justice. 'Self-inflicted deaths' include all deaths where it appears that a prisoner has acted specifically to take their own life. Approximately 80% of these deaths receive a suicide or open verdict at inquest.

Shahid Malik, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, said:

'Each and every death is a personal tragedy for all those who are left behind. Any reduction in the number of self-inflicted deaths in our prisons is very welcome news.'

'This year saw the lowest number of self-inflicted deaths since 1996 and, while there is never any room for complacency in our work to prevent these deaths, it is important to recognise the good work of all those who continue to care for the most vulnerable prisoners in our custody. The government remains fully committed to reducing deaths in custody.'

The numbers of self-inflicted deaths in prison custody can vary considerably. Rises and falls from one year to the next are not good indicators of underlying trends. The most reliable guide to trends is the three-year average annual rate which is currently about 91 per 100,000 of population (lower compared to 101 for the three years ending December 2007).

On any one day, prisons hold over 1,500 people assessed as being at particular risk of suicide or self harm. These and many more prisoners are helped and cared for by prison staff, third sector partners and other prisoners - trusted 'Listeners' trained by the Samaritans to provide confidential emotional support to others.

With regard to the current figures, Michael Spurr, Chief Operating Officer of the National Offender Management Service commented:

'Thanks and recognition are owed to all those who demonstrate their care and professionalism in looking after our vulnerable prisoners on a daily basis. It is essential we continue to improve our learning from these tragic events and to ensure that emerging best practice is developed and shared.

'That this reduction has been achieved to the backdrop of the challenging operational environment is testimony to our commitment to reducing deaths in custody. This work remains a priority for us in 2009.'

Since 1 April 2004, all deaths in prison custody have been investigated by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, Stephen Shaw. The Ombudsman's investigators and family liaison officers carry out independent investigations which also address any issues raised by the bereaved family. Stephen Shaw noted:

'Each death in custody is a tragedy and my Office carries out independent investigations to find out what happened. The bereaved family are invited to ask any questions. I know that the Prison Service takes the safety of prisoners very seriously and I too am pleased that the number who died in 2008 is lower than last year. Finally I am confident that the Prison Service will continue to act on my recommendations which also contribute to keeping prisoners safe.'

The new Ministerial Council on Preventing Deaths in Custody will start its work in April 2009. It will comprise three tiers. The Ministerial Council which will be chaired by Shahid Malik. The Ministerial Council will be advised by the Independent Advisory Panel which will be chaired by Lord Toby Harris. The final tier will be ad-hoc working groups commissioned by the IAP and made up of experts and practitioners.