The Ministry of Justice recorded the highest number of deaths in custody to ever occur in England and Wales last year, according to their latest statistics. There was a total of 371 deaths in prison reported between January and December 2021, a 17% increase from the year before. Of the 371 deaths, 250 were due to ‘natural causes’, increasing by 13% from the year before. Data derived from casework and monitoring by the UK-led charity INQUEST has shown that these deaths were premature and far from ‘natural’. The number of ‘self-inflicted’ deaths also saw a 28% increase from the previous 12 months with 86 deaths.
‘In the 12 months to September 2021 we have seen falls in the number of self-harm and assault incidents, and in the 12 months to December 2021 we have seen an increase in the number of deaths’, commented the statistician for the MoJ. ‘Statistics for these periods relate to the exceptional period during the COVID-19 pandemic, including reduced activity within the Criminal Justice System and the restricted regimes prisons put in place in order to safely manage the risk of infections during the pandemic’.
INQUEST accurately predicted in January 2021 that the ‘worst is yet to come’ amid the second COVID-19 pandemic. INQUEST Director, Deborah Coles had called for ‘radical action’ to deal with the rate of deaths in custody. ‘Sadly, the government did not act and we were proven right.’, continued Coles.
‘These statistics represent the serious consequences of highly restrictive regimes on people’s mental and physical health. They also reflect the continuation of a harmful and dangerous prison system, and criminal justice policies which use prison as the response to social problems’, said Coles. ‘The Government’s latest White Paper on prisons continues to ignore the evidence and favour building more prison places and allowing these needless deaths and harms.’
Support the Justice Gap, buy Proof magazine