Observer letters: Centre for Mental Health and Howard League call for urgent action to prevent further loss of life in prisons

10 September 2017

Our joint letter in today’s Observer

On World Suicide Prevention Day, we are calling on the Government to take urgent action to prevent the loss of life among people in prison, where last year more than 100 people died tragically from suicide.

Research by Centre for Mental Health and the Howard League for Penal Reform shows that preventing this loss of life requires major changes to the way prisons work. So many prisoners have poor mental health and are at risk of suicide and serious self-harm that we need to make systemic changes to the criminal justice system to save lives and make prisons places of rehabilitation.

Every day, prisoners and staff across the country are made more vulnerable because the system currently does not prioritisewellbeing. The prison system must be built around the understanding that nine out of ten prisoners has at least one mental health difficulty and many have been through traumatic events in their lives.

Every day, prisoners and staff across the country are made more vulnerable because the system currently does not prioritise wellbeing.

Prison staff need effective training in working with people who have experienced trauma. They also need support for their own wellbeing, working in such a stressful environment. And psychological help must be on hand for anyone who needs it.

The Government has the opportunity now to saves lives by making system-wide change to our prisons and seeking to prevent every loss of life in every institution across the country.

Sarah Hughes
Chief executive, Centre for Mental Health
Frances Crook
Chief executive, Howard League for Penal Reform

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