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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 February, 2005, 23:58 GMT
Prison suicide record condemned
HMP Manchester
Six people died in custody at HMP Manchester in 2004
Manchester Prison had the highest number of suicides at any jail in England and Wales in 2004, according to the Howard League for Penal Reform.

Six people in custody took their own lives, giving it the worst record in the country ahead of Shrewsbury, where five prisoners committed suicide.

Thirteen prisons experienced three or more deaths, including Nottingham which had the highest suicide rate in 2003.

Blakenhurst, Wakefield and Wormwood Scrubs were also among the highest.

Far too many people find prison intolerable
Frances Crook, the Howard League for Penal Reform
They all had three cases of suicide in 2004, along with Wakefield, Gloucester, Liverpool, New Hall, Norwich, Pentonville and Woodhill Prisons.

The report found that a quarter of deaths in custody occurred within one week of arrival in prison, and half occurred within the first month.

A total of 95 people committed suicide in prisons in 2004, the report said, and a 14-year-old boy took his own life in a secure training centre.

The Howard League figures reported that of people who died in prisons, only seven were identified as at risk of suicide at the time they killed themselves.

Lives saved

Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the death rate in prisons was "a stain on our democracy."

"Far too many people find prison intolerable and are dying as a direct consequence of our love affair with punishment and incarceration.

"Our society would benefit if we used prison less and got people to make amends in the community, and we would save hundreds of lives," she said.

Paul Goggins, Home Office Minister and Labour councillor for Wythenshawe & Sale East, said in a statement that deaths in prisons were "rare."

"Good care and support from staff saves many lives, but such instances go largely unreported.

"The irony is that we have never done more to deal with this pressing issue and I remain determined to ensure that the Prison Service does all in its power to protect and save lives whenever possible," he said.

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