Prisoners: Suicide

House of Lords written question – answered on 20th April 2009.

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Photo of Baroness Warsi Baroness Warsi Shadow Minister (Community Cohesion), Communities and Local Government

To ask Her Majesty's Government what were the race and faith of each prisoner who has committed suicide in prisons in England and Wales in each of the last three years.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Any death in custody is a tragic event. The Government are committed to learning from such events and reducing the number of self-inflicted deaths in prison custody. The National Offender Management Service has a broad, integrated and evidence-based prisoner suicide prevention and self-harm management strategy that seeks to reduce the distress of all those in prison. This encompasses a wide spectrum of prison and Department of Health work around such issues as mental health, substance misuse and resettlement. Any prisoner identified as at risk of suicide or self-harm is cared for using the Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT) procedures.

The three tables below detail the requested numbers of self-inflicted deaths by broad ethnicity and recorded religion group, for the calendar years 2006 to 2008.

2006
Recorded Religion group Asian Black Mixed Other White Total Religion
Buddhist 2 2 3%
Christian 3 27 30 45%
Muslim 1 1 1%
No Religion 1 2 26 30 45%
Other 1 1 2 3%
Not recorded 2 3%
Total 5 0 1 58 67 100%
Ethnicity % 4% 7% 0% 1% 87% 100%
2007
Recorded Religion group Asian Black Mixed Other White Total Religion
Buddhist 1 1 1%
Christian 4 1 40 45 49%
Muslim 4 2 3 9 10%
No Religion 4 2 21 27 29%
Other 1 1 2 2%
Not recorded 1 7 8 9%
Total 6 11 1 2 72 92 100%
Ethnicity % 7% 12% 1% 2% 78% 100%
2008
Recorded Religion group Asian Black Mixed Other White Total Religion
Buddhist 2 2 3%
Christian 23 24 40%
Muslim 3 1 1 1 6 10%
No Religion 1 1 14 16 27%
Other 3 5%
Not recorded 9 9 15%
Total 7 1 2 1 49 60 100%
Ethnicity % 12% 2% 3% 2% 82% 100%

Ethnicity and religious faith figures are based on self-reported information provided by prisoners. Annual numbers of self-inflicted deaths in custody are subject to random and cyclical swings. Falls or rises from one year to the next are not good indicators of underlying trends. This is particularly true with those ethnic groups and religious faiths where overall numbers are relatively small. A more reliable measure is the three-year rolling average. The three-year rate to the end of 2007 fell to 102 per 100,000 from a peak of about 136 per 100,000, (for the years ending September 2004).

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