16 deaths in region’s prisons last year, up 4 on previous year

Staff protest over health and safety concerns at Norwich Prison last November. Picture: DENISE BRADL

Staff protest over health and safety concerns at Norwich Prison last November. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Sixteen people died in the region's prisons last year, compared to 12 in the previous year.

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There were seven deaths in Norwich Prison in 2016, but none by suicide.

That compares to eight deaths, with two by suicide, at the prison, in 2015, four deaths with no suicides in 2014, and seven deaths and three by suicide in 2013.

Meanwhile, there were four deaths at Wayland Prison, including three by suicide, last year. There were three deaths, including one suicide, at Whitemoor prison, near March, and two deaths, with no suicides, at Bure prison, in 2016.

Official data published by the Ministry of Justice shows that 119 prisoners died by suicide in 2016 - the highest number in a calendar year since current recording practices began in 1978. In addition to the 119 men and women who took their own lives, 196 prisoners were recorded to have died of natural causes.

The figures also reveal 37,784 reported incidents of self-injury in prisons during the 12 months to the end of September 2016, 3372 serious assaults, and 6430 assaults on prison staff.

Glyn Travis, assistant general secretary of the Prison Officers' Association, said his union had raises issues of suicides, self-harm and unprecedented levels of assaults with the Ministry of Justice week on week for many years.

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He added: 'While we welcome the decision of the Secretary of State to increase frontline staffing, the extra money and additional resources will not resolve the problem. Prisons need more investment to protect the public and keep prisoners safe.'

Justice Secretary Liz Truss has vowed to take action over the state of the prison service, but she said prisons faced 'long-standing issues that will not be resolved in weeks'.

It comes just two months after prison officers in Norwich spoke of the 'dire' conditions they were forced to work in, and 60 members of staff went on protest outside the Knox Road facility over health and safety concerns. One prisoner set fire to his cell and a prison officer was assaulted and suffered a broken eye socket.

A number of serious incidents also occurred in jails across the country last year, including a riot and two prisoners escaping.

Are you a prison officer in one of the region's jails? What are conditions like? Email david.bale2@archant.co.uk

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