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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 August, 2003, 00:22 GMT 01:22 UK
Prison suicides at all-time high
Prisoner in cell
Inmates are forced to "double up" in single cells due to overcrowding
The number of prison inmates testing positive for drugs has risen for the first time in five years while suicide rates are at an all-time high, a report by prison campaigners has found.

The Prison Reform Trust study, based on the Prison Service's own data for England and Wales published last month, showed positive drug tests rose to 11.7% last year against a target of 10%.

The Trust claims that overcrowded jails are leading to poor performances in other areas as the system struggles to cope.

Leeds Prison recorded the most positive drug tests (28.3%), followed by Lancaster (26.4%) and Kirkham in Preston (25.8%).

In contrast, Albany on the Isle of Wight and East Sutton Park in Maidstone, Kent, both recorded none.

Record suicides

The year 2002-2003 also saw the highest number of suicides on record with 105 jail inmates taking their own lives.

The jail with the highest number of suicides was Durham with six deaths.

Prisons in England and Wales also failed to meet their overcrowding target with 20.4% of the average population doubling up in single cells against Prison Service targets of 18%.

Shrewsbury was the most overcrowded jail in England and Wales with a 91.1% average of prisoners "doubling up".

Jails recording no prisoner assaults
East Sutton Park (Kent)
Kirkham (Lancs)
Blantyre House (Kent)
Ford (W Sussex)
Hewell Grange (Worcs)
Latchmere House (Surrey)
Leyhill (Glos)
North Sea Camp (Lincs)
Standford Hill (Kent)
Whatton (Notts)

The prison with the highest assault rate was privately-run Ashfield, near Bristol, with 89.2%, said the PRT report.

A spokesman for operator Premier Prisons pointed out that they recorded assaults differently, cataloguing all reported incidents.

Ten jails in England and Wales recorded no incidents of assault over the 12-month period.

Report author Enver Solomon said: "This report reveals a Prison Service whose performance is being severely hampered by a record prison population.

"It is truly shocking that so many people have killed themselves in prison.

"Far too many prisons are overcrowded, provide inadequate levels of purposeful activity and experience high levels of recorded drug use.

"The only way to improve these jails is immediately to reduce their populations."


SEE ALSO:
Women's prisons are 'overcrowded'
28 Mar 03  |  England


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