Deaths by suicide and from natural causes in prisons in England and Wales

I’m carrying out research for my forthcoming written submission to the Health Select Committee inquiry on suicide, and currently looking at suicides related to the criminal justice system, including the suicides of men falsely accused of sexual offences, the suicides of men in prison, and other issues.

I tracked down an interesting article in The Guardian from April 2016, Murders and suicides in prisons in England and Wales hit 25-year high. The article reported that in the year to March 2016, 100 ‘people’ in prison had committed suicide, and six were murdered. However, there was no gender breakdown for these numbers, and I suspected this was a reflection of the relentlessly anti-male bias of the paper.

So I tracked down the source of the data – a publication issued by the Ministry of Justice in March 2016, Safety in Custody Statistics, England and Wales. It’s an interesting read. In Table 1 (p.6) we find gender breakdowns for ‘self-harm incidents’ and ‘assault incidents’ but no gender breakdowns for suicide, or deaths by natural causes, or homicide. I cannot conceive of a legitimate reason why these gender breakdowns would not be reported. It is clearly designed to hide the disproportionate extent to which men are ending their lives in prisons.

In Fig.1 (p.9) there’s an astonishing statistic, which to the best of my knowledge has not been reported in the media. In the 12 months to December 2000, there was slightly under one death by natural causes, per 1,000 prisoners. It rose steadily in the ensuing 15 years, and in the 12 months to December 2015 it had reached almost two deaths per 1,000 prisoners, i.e. the rate had doubled in the course of 15 years. Given that the overwhelming majority of prisoners in the UK are men – around 96% – this is surely a shocking indictment of the deterioration of conditions in men’s prisons over the past 15 years.

One thought on “Deaths by suicide and from natural causes in prisons in England and Wales

  1. On a related note, most people have probably seen the story over the last few days of Sarah Williams who went to Germany with a female accomplice to buy a 500,000 volt stun gun with which she incapacitated her love rival before stabbing her to death with 40 knife slashes.
    She was sentenced to 30 years for this carefully planned, intentional and premeditated violent murder, and her accomplice to 25 years.
    If the womens prisons are closed, what do we do with people like that?

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