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A STAGGERING number of men have taken their own lives at the same jail, HMP Woodhill, in just seven years, a damning report published today has found.
HM Inspectorate of Prisons found “chronic and substantial” staff shortages at HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes, which mainly houses inmates on remand or serving short sentences.
Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said the number of suicides at a prison with a population of just 626 was a “huge concern.”
He said: “At the time we inspected, eight prisoners had taken their own lives since our previous inspection in 2015 and, staggeringly, 19 prisoners had taken their own lives at the establishment since 2011.
“Tragically, a few months after this inspection another prisoner was reported to have taken his own life.”
He argued that “chronic staff shortages and inexperience” underpinned “nearly all the concerns raised in this report.”
Those shortcomings, Mr Clarke said, “led to poor time out of cell, unpredictable daily routines and limited access to activity.”
The report also found levels of self-harm and violence at the prison had gone up since the previous inspection.
In the six months prior to the latest visit, the jail had recorded 314 self-harm incidents, 65 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults, 57 assaults on staff, and 47 fights.
Out of a full staffing complement of 320 officers there were, at the time of the inspection, 55 vacancies, while 20 per cent of officers in post had less than 12 months’ experience.
HM Prison & Probation Service chief executive Michael Spurr said Woodhill managed “a complex and vulnerable population and the governor and her staff have worked tirelessly to improve support and care for prisoners and there were no self-inflicted deaths in 2017.”
But Mr Spurr admitted that “staffing vacancies have had an impact,” while countering that the prison service has “a strong pipeline of new recruits which will significantly increase staffing in the coming months.”
Prisons Minister Rory Stewart said an additional 32 officers were due by the end of November.
Shadow justice minister Richard Burgon told the Star: “This report is yet more damning evidence of the harm done by Conservative cuts to prison budgets and staff numbers.
“The chronic staff shortages and huge inexperience of many officers identified by the Prison Inspectorate as the root of the crisis at Woodhill is repeated across our prisons.
“The government must urgently get a grip on this prison emergency and fix the problems its reckless policies have created.”
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