Revealed: How many inmates died at North East prisons in 2017

HMP Durham. Pic by PA.
HMP Durham. Pic by PA.

More than 20 inmates died at North East prisons last year, officials have revealed.

A total of 24 people died, with five committing suicide, at various sites in the region, according to date from the Ministry of Justice.

Nine inmates at HMP Durham died during the past 12 months, with three committing suicide.

Four inmates died at HMP Frankland, five at Holme House in Stockton, one by suicide, and five at Northumberland, while one person died at Kirklevington in Stockton.

There were no deaths at Deerbolt in Barnard Castle, or Low Newton in Brasside, both in County Durham.

Although the number of deaths nationally fell significantly, there were 7,828 assaults on prison staff – a 22 per cent rise compared to the previous 12 months.

Data show that 28,165 assaults were recorded in prisons in England and Wales in the 12 months to the end of September 2017 – a 12 per cent rise on the previous year.

It means that incidents of assault and self-injury are at their highest levels since current recording practices began in 1978, something which the Howard League for Penal Reform says needs to be reduced.

The figures show that 295 people died in jails in 2017, including 70 people who lost their lives through suicide.

A total of 184 people were recorded to have died of natural causes.

The number of prisoners losing their lives through suicide has fallen significantly.

In 2016, 120 people died – the highest number on record.

Of those, 12 self-inflicted deaths in 2016 were women, whereas two women lost their lives in prison through suicide in 2017.

Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Against a backdrop of continued problems affecting prison safety, there has been a welcome reduction in the number of people who have lost their lives through suicide.

“Given that 2016 was the worst year on record in this area, however, improvement was a must.

“There is no room for complacency when it remains the case that a prisoner dies by suicide every three days.

“We have no way of knowing how many more lives have been saved by quick-thinking staff, many of whom are working in intolerable conditions.

“As the prison system buckles under the weight of chronic overcrowding and staff shortages, the wave of violence and self-injury rises higher and higher.

“The new Secretary of State for Justice and his minister for prisons must respond boldly and urgently to this national emergency, to prevent more people being hurt.

“Reducing the prison population would save lives, protect staff and stop others being swept into deeper currents of crime, violence and despair.”