On January 25 2024, the Ministry of Justice released its latest findings on deaths and incidents of self-harm within the prison system for the year 2023.

Alarmingly, the data reveals an increase in the number of deaths, with 311 reported in 2023 compared to 301 in the preceding year.

The statistical breakdown is as follows:

  • Self-inflicted deaths – A concerning 22% surge in self-inflicted deaths, with 93 recorded in 2023 compared to 76 in 2022.
  • Self-harm – A notable 12% uptick from the previous year, with 12,292 individuals engaging in self-harming behaviours.
  • Assaults – An alarming 14% increase in assaults, reaching a rate of 300 assaults per 1,000 prisoners (25,223 incidents).
  • Serious assaults – A 14% rise in the number of serious assaults from the previous year, totalling 2,837 incidents.

Concurrently, the Independent Monitoring Body for Prisons published a report on the same day, highlighting persistent shortcomings within the prison system; particularly regarding the ongoing placement of mentally unwell men in Close Supervision Units (CSUs).

The report brings attention to the following issues:

Excessive periods of segregation

Prisoners with severe mental health needs endured extended periods of segregation, surpassing 800 days in one documented case.

Unfortunately, the mental well-being and behaviour of these individuals often deteriorated further during these prolonged periods.

Failure to transfer severely unwell prisoners to secure hospitals

The Independent Monitoring Bodies (IMBs) consistently raised concerns about the failure to meet the 28-day target for transferring severely unwell men from prison to secure hospitals. Delays were identified at various stages, including referral, assessment, and the actual transfer process.

Excessive movement of prisons between CSUs, healthcare units and wings

Movement of prisoners back-and-forth between CSUs, prison healthcare units, and wings was a common occurrence, complicating efforts to accurately track the cumulative time spent in segregation.

This practice further exacerbates the challenges associated with managing mentally unwell individuals within the prison system.

While a multitude of reports and inquiries have formulated recommendations aimed at reducing the statistics concerning prison deaths; little has been actioned.

It is clear that, while prisons are designed to protect the public from harm, the rise in prison deaths is an indisputable mark of the intrinsic concerns within the system itself.

Where a death occurs in police or prison custody, an inquest will be required by law. Through inquests, bereaved families of deceased prisoners can pose questions surrounding the death, often bringing about valuable learning opportunities from the death of their loved one and, subsequently, meaningful change.

The inquest team at Farleys has a wealth of experience in assisting the families of those who have died in prison and an awareness that uncertainty surrounding the circumstances of the death of a loved one can be particularly distressing.

Most recently, we represented the families of Dylan Woodhead and Samuel Hayden at Article 2 inquests into their respective deaths at HMP Forest Bank and HMP Liverpool.

Dylan Woodhead Inquest Concludes Serious Failings at HMP Hindley (farleys.com)

Inquest into the Death of Samuel Hayden at HM Prison Liverpool (farleys.com)

If your loved one has passed away while in prison or police custody, we can offer you advice and support throughout the process. To get in touch, either call us on 0845 287 0939 or send your enquiry through our online form.