Multiple suicides at two of region’s prisons last year as rates of self-inflicted deaths rise

THERE were three suicides last year at two of the region’s prisons, according to a national charity.

HMP Leeds

HMP Leeds and HMP Humber were among the eight jails where at least three inmates took their own lives in 2014, figures compiled by the Howard League for Penal Reform have revealed.

The statistics, taken from Ministry of Justice data, show the prison suicide rate rose to its highest for seven years last year.

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Eighty-two prisoners took their own lives during 2014, including 14 young adults aged between 18 and 24. In 2013 there were 75 deaths and 61 in 2012.

In total, 235 people died in prisons in England and Wales over the year. More than 120 prisoners died of natural causes, and 24 deaths are yet to be classified.

As well as the three suicides last year, HMP Leeds, a Category B prison, also saw four deaths from natural causes. The total of seven deaths was five up from the previous year.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League, said: “No one should be so desperate whilst they are in the care of the state that they take their own life.

“The numbers hide the true extent of misery inside prisons and for families. It is particularly tragic that teenagers and other young people have died by their own hand in our prisons and we should all be ashamed that this happened.

“Hard-pressed prison staff have to save lives by cutting people down almost every day and without this the death toll would be even higher. It is evident that people are dying as a direct result of the cuts to the number of staff, particularly more experienced staff, in every prison.”

Sean Duggan, Chief Executive of Centre for Mental Health, said: “Every time a person takes their own life it is a tragedy for them and their family, and we must do all we can to avoid such loss of life.”

Prisons Minister Andrew Selous said: “Every death in custody is a terrible tragedy. We remain focused on doing all we can to prevent them.

“What I cannot understand is why the Howard League is trying to use this loss of life for their own campaigning purposes.

“They are deliberately misrepresenting the situation in our prison for their own ends. This helps no one - least of all the vulnerable individuals in prison whose well-being is the absolute priority of prisons staff and ministers alike.”