Deaths in prison custody reach all-time high in 2013

Pentonville prison Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Deaths in prison custody are at an all-time high

There were more deaths in prison custody in England and Wales in 2013 than in any other year on record.

Figures released by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) show a 12% increase from 192 deaths in 2012 to 215 last year.

The number of self-inflicted deaths rose from 60 to 74, with 38% occurring in the first 30 days in prison.

The MoJ said it would make "strenuous efforts" to learn from each death. Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said the public should be "alarmed".

In total there were 123 deaths from natural causes last year, 74 self-inflicted deaths - defined as suicides and accidental deaths due to a prisoner's own actions - four homicides and 14 other deaths which are yet to be classified.

The four murders were the most in a single year since 1998, up from zero in 2012.

"We are committed to reducing the number of deaths in custody and are carefully investigating the rise in self-inflicted deaths," said Michael Spurr, chief executive of the MoJ's National Offender Management Service.

"We are applying strenuous efforts to learn from each death and are providing further resources and support to help the safer custody work in prisons.

"Every death is subject to an internal investigation and investigation by the police, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO), as well as a coroner's inquest, and we consider these carefully to allow us to learn any lessons."

'Tragic statistic'

Overall, the death rate in 2013 increased to 2.55 deaths per 1,000 prisoners compared to 2.23 in 2012.

Mr Khan added: "We should all be alarmed that more people died in prisons last year than ever before. It's worrying that the lessons of previous deaths in custody are being ignored.

"Ministers need urgently to address this problem, find out what the causes are, and do all they can to make sure this tragic statistic is never repeated."

The MoJ figures also reflect a rise in the proportion of self-inflicted deaths in the early stages of incarceration, with 38% (28) of the fatalities occurring within the first 30 days in prison compared with 15% in 2012.

There was one self-inflicted death on the day of arrival and nine within the first two full days in prison custody.

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