In Brief

Suicide rate among released prisoners is rocketing

Calls for greater scrutiny after deaths increased sixfold since 2010

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The number of people who have committed suicide while on supervision after being released from jail in the UK has increased sixfold since 2010 to a rate of one every two days.

According to analysis of Ministry of Justice data, published by The Guardian, there were 153 self-inflicted deaths among those on post-custody supervision in 2018-19, compared with 24 in 2010-11.

The charity Inquest says that there is a stark difference between the suicide rate among people leaving prison, and among those serving community orders and suspended sentence orders, who have not been jailed.

In 2018-19, the former rate was 212 per 100,000, while in the second category the rate falls to 132 per 100,000. The rate among the general population is about 14 per 100,000.

A report from Inquest’s head of policy, Rebecca Roberts, and Jake Phillips of Sheffield Hallam University concluded that any deaths of people on post-custody supervision should be probed by an independent body.

Although the prisons ombudsman opened investigations into 334 deaths in 2018-19, it explored just 12 cases of residents in probation-approved premises.

Inquest’s executive director, Deborah Coles, says the data is “deeply disturbing and requires urgent scrutiny”.

She added: “What is clear however is that people are being released into failing support systems, poverty, homelessness and an absence of services for mental health and addictions. This is state abandonment.”

Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service and the National Probation Service have agreed to perform an in-depth overall review of the deaths of people under post-sentence supervision.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that levels of assaults in prison had risen to record highs, despite programmes of investment focused on reducing violence and increasing security.

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