In Brief

Prisons in need of 'profound' shift to prevent suicides

Howard League calls for reform after 119 prisoners in England and Wales took their lives last year

Prisons in England and Wales are in need of a "profound culture change" in order to prevent suicides among inmates, a new report suggests.

"Staff shortages, a toxic working environment and a failure to recognise the traumatising impact of prison for both prisoners and staff" are said to have contributed to the high number of suicides - 119 - in England and Wales last year. Poor mental health, combined with a lack of support, was also highlighted as a contributing factor.

The report, by the Centre for Mental Health and the Howard League for Penal Reform, recommends the justice system "shift from a primarily punitive approach to a culture centred on wellbeing, recovery and rehabilitation".

Its publication coincides with an undercover BBC investigation into HMP Northumberland, one of the largest prisons in the country which houses up to 1,348 male inmates. It found "widespread drug use, a lack of control, door alarms that did not go off in one block and a hole in an internal security fence".

The BBC describes the situation in the privately run prison as "chaos".

While campaigners have warned overcrowded jails put lives at risk, Justice Secretary Liz Truss will today insist cutting prison sentences would be a "dangerous quick fix", reports Sky News.

In a speech in London, she is to say it is right for "wicked" people who have committed serious crimes to spend longer behind bars.

The Ministry of Justice told the BBC: "The Justice Secretary has been clear that levels of violence and self-harm in our prisons are too high, which is why we are investing an extra £100m annually to boost the front line by 2,500 officers.

"These are long-standing issues which will not be resolved in weeks or months but we are determined to make our prisons places of safety and reform."

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