Senior Labour MP compares prison suicides to 'death penalty by the back door'

Posted On: 
28th February 2017

Some prisoners are being given a “death sentence by the back door” because of inadequate suicide prevention measures, a senior Labour MP has said. 

119 prisoners died by suicide in 2016
PA Images

The number of suicides in prisons reached 119 in 2016 – the highest since records began 25 years ago and double the figure in 2012.

Luciana Berger, the former shadow mental health minister, said the statistic was a “shameful stain on our nation’s conscience”.

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The Labour MP accused the Government of U-turning on a pledge to undertake an investigation into the deaths and claimed ministers were “not really doing anything” to quell the crisis.

She told PoliticsHome: “We rightly banned the death penalty decades ago but you're eight times more likely to take your life in prison than you are outside of prison and that's just not acceptable.

“This is essentially the death penalty by the back door for some prisoners who go on to take their own lives and that's just not acceptable in 2017.”

Her office highlighted a recent study by the Centre for Mental Health commissioned by the Department of Health and the Ministry of Justice, which found a decrease in staff meant prisoners could not be taken to psychiatric appointments and so were not getting the help they need.

The figures showed up to 30 prison healthcare appointments had been cancelled in one day.

When asked if this led to more people taking their own lives and an increase in self harm, Ms Berger said: “Of course, yes.”

She added: “This has to get better, it's a shameful stain on our nation's conscience that this situation is allowed to persist. It's just not acceptable. We have prisons to protect the public and also to encourage rehabilitation, we don't expect people to take their lives because of it and everything should be done to stop that.”