07:42, July 09 179 0 theguardian.com

2019-07-09 07:42:04
Prison suicide rate is a scandal, says HM chief inspector

The number of people killing themselves in prisons is a “scandal” with many inmates dying unnecessarily in preventable circumstances, the chief inspector of prisons has said in a damning call to action, adding that a public inquiry should now be considered.

In his 2018-19 annual report, Peter Clarke said levels of self-harm were “disturbingly high” and self-inflicted deaths had increased to 83 from 72 the previous year.

Speaking to journalists at the launch of the report launch, Clarke said: “Is it time, after years and years and years of the same faults, same mistakes, same admissions leading to self-inflicted deaths, is it time for there to be an independent external inquiry into this whole subject?

“It is no exaggeration to say it is a scandal. People in the care of the state are dying unnecessarily in preventable circumstances.”

Clarke said prison service officials had been slow to respond to the “deluge of drugs” flowing into jails, which were generating debt, as well as bullying and violence.

The Prison Service had not been robust or sophisticated enough in its response to the threat, he said, adding that the introduction of new technologies had been “patchy”.

“The appalling impact of illicit drugs, particularly new psychoactive substances, had been underestimated and as a result many prisons were still suffering from the debt, bullying and violence they generated,” Clarke said.

“The response to the deluge of drugs [flowing] into many prisons in recent years has too often been slow and neither robust nor sophisticated.”

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP), which covers England and Wales and is led by Clarke, published 78 inspection and thematic reports.