(ANTIMEDIA) United Kingdom — Justice Secretary Michael Gove has been urged to act amid revelations that someone takes their own life nearly every four days inside a U.K. prison. The latest figures, released by Inquest, reveal there have been 229 deaths in prison since the beginning of 2015. Included in the charity’s figures are 14 young people aged between 18-24 and one child aged 16. Among the deaths, 79 were suicides and eight were homicides.
The spotlight on the spike in prison suicides and self-harm comes amid recent news that hundreds of inmates are waiting weeks for hospital treatment in prisons, despite them being included in the Mental Health Act.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that prison often exacerbates existing mental health conditions, and frequently leads to reoffending, self-harm, or suicide. In British prisons, those deemed to be at high risk of suicide or self-harm are placed under the Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork process. ACCT is supposed to allow prison staff to closely monitor and assess the prisoner, engage them in planning ways to reduce their problems, and help them build sources of support.
Yet 60 per cent of inmates who committed suicide in U.K. prisons in 2015 did not have an ACCT plan.
The astonishing revelation was a response to a parliamentary question asked by Shadow Minister for Health, Luciana Berger, who told The Independent on Sunday: “Every four days, someone in prison takes their own life. If our society is facing a mental health crisis then the situation within our prisons is all the more grave.” Though the actual figure comes out to every 4.6 days (365 days divided by 79 suicides), this slight decimal disparity makes little difference for those suffering behind bars.
Lord Bradley’s 2009 review revealed that many offenders with poor mental health end up in prison without access to appropriate treatment. The review recognized that the majority of prisoners with lower-level mental health disorders are not dangerous and could be better treated outside the prison system, with no risk to the public.
In spite of Lord Bradley’s recommendations six years ago, the spike in suicides continues, and self-harming increased by 21% in 2015, alone. Government declarations that it is working hard to “ensure prisoners with mental health problems have the support they need” are little consolation to the bereaved families of Britain’s most vulnerable — who met their deaths inside the country’s bleakest institutions.