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Last Updated: Monday, 17 May, 2004, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
Protest over women prison deaths
Wardens and prisoners at Durham Prison
Overcrowding has been highlighted at Durham Prison
Two women tried to stop a prison van entering Durham Jail on Monday during protests over the number of deaths among women in jail.

The demonstration was organised by Pauline Campbell, whose daughter died in Styal Prison in Cheshire in 2003.

Sharon Miller, from Somerset, was the latest woman inmate to be found hanging in her cell at Durham on 8 May.

Mrs Campbell was arrested as police led away two protesters, but she was later released without charge.

Durham Prison refused to comment on the demonstration, but said it was taking steps to reduce prison suicides.

In 2003, 14 women prisoners died while in jail. So far this year, eight women have taken their own lives.

The Prison Service says number of new initiatives are in force to prevent suicides in prison.

'Community punishment'

But Mrs Campbell claims continued prison overcrowding is a major cause of suicides.

She said: "It's overcrowding, under staffing and under funding that is causing this problem.

"Prisoners don't always get the psychiatric and medical care that is needed.

"And considering that a lot of these women are in jail for non-violent crimes, it might be better to consider community punishment instead."

In December 2003, the governor of Durham Jail, Mike Newell, said vulnerable prisoners should not be sent to his prison.

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

In 2002, the Prison Reform Trust said more inmates committed suicide at Durham, than at any other jail in the country.

Report highlights overcrowding
13 Jan 04  |  England
Call for review of prison remands
09 Dec 03  |  England

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