Government must step in to stop more deaths at Milton Keynes’ ‘suicide prison’

MPMC Woodhill Prison

MPMC Woodhill Prison

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The eighth death in nine months at Woodhill has sparked calls for the government to take urgent action.

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Sixteen prisoners have died at Woodhill since 2013 and MP Mark Lancaster has pledged to lodge his concerns with the Home Office over the “worrying trend” of prisoners found hanged in their cells.

He is also meeting with Woodhill governor Rob Davis to find out how he plans to stop the tragic toll.

Mark Lancaster

Mark Lancaster

Prison officers found 41-year-old David Rayner hanged in his cell on Thursday last week.

“The deaths are coming at a rate of almost one a month. This is not only tragic but totally unacceptable,” said Andrew Neilson from the Howard League for Penal Reform.

He is now demanding the HM Inspectorate of Prisons carry out an urgent scrutiny into what the jail may be doing wrong.

“The last inspection was less than a year ago, but extra visits can be made in exceptional circumstances. These statistics certainly qualify as exceptional,” he said.

Last year’s inspection was highly critical that Woodhill had seen five death in 2015, making it the highest suicide rate jail in the UK.

“If last year’s rate was unacceptably high, then how would they describe this year’s? Somebody needs to take urgent action to stop this spate,” said Mr Neilson.

He believes cuts in the number of front line prison officers could be partly to blame for the problem.

Other experts say the jail is failing to protect prisoners identified by other agencies as high risk of suicide.

Mark Lancaster MP said: “This is a worrying trend. The government has a duty of care for prisoner safety.”