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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 December, 2003, 10:35 GMT
Call for review of prison remands
The governor of a jail where a fourth inmate in six months has apparently taken their own life, says vulnerable remand prisoners should not be sent to his establishment.

An inquiry has started after 30-year-old Maurice Cowan from Northumberland was found hanged in his cell at Durham Jail on Monday.

He had been charged with murdering his father, Douglas Cowan, who was found dead at his home on Hambledon Street in Blyth in October.

In 2002, the Prison Reform Trust said more inmates committed suicide at Durham, than at any other jail in the country - six suicide deaths were recorded at Durham last year.

Now, the governor there, Mike Newell, has called for vulnerable remand prisoners to be housed in bail hostels, rather than high security prison establishments.

Mr Newell said: "We really need to be careful in ensuring that we only use prison for those where we definitely need to protect the public.

'Unresolved issues'

"We need to make sure that we don't remand into custody highly vulnerable people who could be better accommodated through bail hostels and other arrangements."

Mr Newell said those thought to be at risk from self-harm were monitored at Durham.

He said: "There may be at any one time in Durham 150 people who are at very high risk.

"There is a real difficulty with remand prisoners and we have struggled for a long time in this country to provide the right environment.

"In many cases these are people who have just come in off the streets with many unresolved issues and do not know what is facing them.

"They are a group which is highly vulnerable within the prison system."

A Home Office spokesman said that police, the coroner and next of kin had been informed and an internal prison service investigation had started into the latest death.

Mr Cowan had been admitted to the prison on 4 October.

Prison suicides at all-time high
13 Aug 03  |  England
Female prisoner found hanged
03 May 03  |  Humber
Durham Prison tops suicide table
12 Jan 03  |  England


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