Emanuele Midolo
Nov 29, 2015 · 2 min read
Wormwood Scrubs Prison. Photo: O.F.E/Flickr

More and more people are dying in British prisons. New statistics, published by the Ministry of Justice, show a sharp rise in deaths in custody.

267 people died during the last 12 months. 95 of them committed suicide, 7 were killed. These are the highest figures in over ten years.

“These horrendous statistics spell out the scale of the challenge for the new secretary of state for justice and his ministers”, said Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform.

“It is surely evident that people are dying as a result of the cuts to the number of staff, particularly more experienced staff, in every prison”, Neilson said.

Five people committed suicide at the Wormwood Scrubs Prison in 2013 — the highest number in the entire prison system. The suicide rate at the Scrubs accounted for 7% of the total, calculated across the 157 England and Wales facilities.

Last summer, a report of by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) named HMP Wormwood Scrubs as one of the worst prison in the country.

The prison was one of only three to receive a Rating 1 in the Prison Annual Performance Ratings, which means that the “overall performance is of serious concern”.

Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said “overcrowding was sometimes exacerbated by extremely poor environments and squalid conditions”.

“At Wormwood Scrubs, staff urged me to look at the cells. ‘I wouldn’t keep a dog in there’, one told me. Conditions in many cells were unacceptably poor. Many were filthy, covered in graffiti, some of which was offensive, and furniture was broken or missing.

Toilets were filthy and inadequately screened. Windows were broken. We found cockroaches in cells on C wing”, Hardwick said.

In 2011, police arrested twelve officers for systematic beatings and abuses towards prisoners.

Emanuele Midolo

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Former editor in chief @agoravoxitalia Investigative journalism trainee @CityUniLondon