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HUNDREDS of people in England and Wales are dying in prison and after release from custody, according to official data out today.
The revelation comes the day after Parliament’s justice committee criticised ministers for leaving prisons in an “appalling” state of crisis.
The panel of MPs accused the Ministry of Justice of “policy by press release” and demanded a “long-term plan to improve the prison system, underpinned by the funding to make it work.”
Tory MP and justice committee chairman Bob Neill MP said: “The prison system in England and Wales is enduring a crisis of safety and decency.
“Prisons will not become less violent without proper investment in purposeful activity for prisoners to support rehabilitation.”
Campaigners say there are now “historically high levels of self-inflicted deaths” among prisoners, with an inmate taking their own life every four days.
Deborah Coles of the Inquest charity said: “These statistics are more than numbers.
“They represent real people in extreme distress, leading to preventable deaths and traumatic bereavement for families.
“Any incoming government must radically transform sentencing policy, reduce the prison population and redirect resources to community services.”
She also raised concerns about the deaths of offenders on probation, saying that the number had risen “drastically” by 38 per cent to more than 515 people in 2018-19.
Ms Coles said the increase in deaths stemmed from “the violence of austerity” and warned that “people are being released into failing support systems, poverty and an absence of services for mental health and additions. This is state abandonment.”
Meanwhile, the Prisoner Officers Association (POA) sounded the alarm over a record high number of assaults on prison staff, which rose by 10 per cent in the last year to reach 10,424.
POA national chairman Mark Fairhurst said: “Our employer has dramatically failed to address violence and self-harm in our prisons.”
He said the prison service has admitted that there is widespread under-recording of violence, so the true picture is much worse than the figures suggest.
Mr Fairhurst reiterated his union’s demand for the issuing of Pava incapacitant spray to prisoner officers, which the government agreed to do over a year ago.
Prison Reform Trust director Peter Dawson asked: “How can any government contemplate sending more people to prison on ever longer sentences when it is failing so completely to meet its duty of care to the individuals involved?
“These terrible figures show that the prison system is not in recovery.”
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