Seven prisoners died in Lewes HMP last year as national statistic at highest since records began

Prisoners in Lewes are currently at their greatest risk of dying whilst in jail, according to the latest national statistics

A statistical bulletin, published by the Ministry of Justice, shows 371 people died in prison custody in 2021- 7 of which were from HMP Lewes.

The national charity Howard League has called for the treatment of people in prison to be included in the inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic.

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It says the current strict restrictions’ placed on prisoners is particularly damaging impact on children and young adults were highlighted in two Howard League briefings, published in 2020.

A statistical bulletin, published by the Ministry of Justice, shows 371 people died in prison custody in 2021- 7 of which were from HMP Lewes.

Andrea Coomber, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “For the first time since current recording practices began more than 40 years ago, people in prison are dying at a rate of more than one per day.

"While the full impact of the pandemic will only become apparent in the years to come, there is plainly a mental health crisis in our prisons with suicides up nearly 30 per cent in the past year.

"Tens of thousands of people have been held in overcrowded conditions or solitary confinement for months on end. It is almost impossible to fathom the mental distress that this will have caused. This is devastating for the prisoners, their families and the staff looking after them."

This current number is the highest since records began, showing a 17 per cent rise on the year before, when 318 people died.

It exceeds the previous high of 354 deaths in a calendar year, recorded in 2016, when the prison population stood at about 85,000.

Currently, the prison population is significantly lower than it was in 2016 – recorded at 79,303 at the end of last week.

The number of people losing their lives through suicide has increased by 28 per cent in just one year – from 67 in 2020 to 86 in 2021. One in five suicides occurred within the person’s first 30 days in custody, with one in 10 cases occurring within the first week.

The bulletin states that prisons recorded 52,726 incidents of self-injury in the 12 months to the end of September 2021, at a rate of one every 10 minutes.

Over the same period, prisons recorded 20,049 assaults – an 18 per cent reduction on the figures for the previous 12 months.

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