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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 September, 2003, 04:51 GMT 05:51 UK
'Primitive' jails blamed for suicides
Prisoner in cell
Thirty-six remand prisoners killed themselves last year
Prisoners who are awaiting trial commit suicide at a rate of one every 10 days, according to a new report.

On the back of the new figures the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) has launched a web-based campaign to highlight what it claims are poor treatment and "primitive" conditions experienced by remand prisoners in England and Wales.

The charity has criticised increases in the length of time remand prisoners are held, during which they often share a cell with convicted criminals and can be locked up for up to 22 hours a day.

Remand prisoners account for one third of all prison suicides, even though they are innocent until proven guilty, said PRT.

The group says more than 50,000 people were remanded into custody last year awaiting trial - 36 of whom committed suicide.

The prisoners were held for an average of 49 days, a figure which has gradually increased over the last four years.

"Pressure of numbers"

The charity said remand prisoners can be locked in their cells for most of the day, with no regular access to showers, and only 30 minutes for exercise.

When they do stand trial, one in five remand prisoners are acquitted and half receive a non-custodial sentence.

The PRT has previously criticised overcrowded, Victorian prisons in which many remand prisoners are held before their cases come to court.

Last month head of the Prison Service Phil Wheately blamed the growing number of people being sent to jail on record numbers of prison suicides.

Mr Wheatley said "sheer pressure of numbers" meant prisoners were being moved in and out of jails too quickly to receive adequate attention.

His comments came days after a report by the PRT showed that 105 inmates in England and Wales committed suicide last year - the highest number on record.

A report last year found that thousands of prisoners held on remand in England and Wales were being denied their legal rights to prepare for trial.

Inquiry into women's prison deaths
21 Aug 03  |  Manchester
Prison suicides at all-time high
13 Aug 03  |  England

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