Woodhill prison's suicide rate under fire after another prisoner is found dead

A government inspector of prisons has raised more concerns over the suicide rate at Woodhill, where four prisoners have died over the past four months.

Tuesday, 15th March 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th March 2016, 2:49 pm
No Caption ABCDE PNL-151211-164027001

Martin Lomas from Her Majesty’s Prison Inspectorate said the number of self-inflicted deaths at the jail had been “unacceptably high”.

His report was published today – just days after 35-year-old remand prisoner Robert Fenton was found hanging in his cell.

Mr Fenton is the 12th Woodhill prisoner since 2013 to die in such a way.

Now HM Prions Inspectorate has urged the jail to make it a main priority to tackle its suicide rate.

Most of the victims were prisoners who were on remand, awaiting trial. A significant number of them had been at the prison for less then two weeks.

Deputy chief inspector Mr Lomas said: “Early days in custody are a critical time... The inspection found real improvements had been made but more still needed to be done to reduce the likelihood of further self-inflicted deaths.”

The report identified weaknesses in the support of men at risk of suicide or self harm. It found only 18 per cent of staff were trained in mental health awareness and there were not enough Listeners, who are prisoners trained by the Samaritans to give support to fellow inmates.

There was also concern about levels of violence at Woodhill and there had been some serious assaults on prisoners and staff, said Mr Lomas.

“Although the prison felt calm, a sizeable minority (one in five prisoners) said they felt unsafe,” he said.

Woodhill was praised for making improvements in its rehabilitation services and in providing work, training and education. The provision of activity for short-term prisoners was cited as “an example other local prisons could follow”, said Mr Lomas.

But he added: “Despite this, levels of violence are a significant concern and the number of self-inflicted deaths in recent years has been unacceptably high. The main priority of the prison must be to tackle these two issues.”