Any death from suicide in prison is a tragedy. We have managed to reduce the number of suicides in prison—it nearly halved between 2016 and 2017—and most of that progress is due to a new protocol that identifies the individual needs of prisoners and their times of maximum vulnerability.
How many additional staff who are trained to deal with medical illness have been brought in?
Nearly 15,600 of our staff have received additional training—that is the figure produced by my colleague. The ACCT—assessment, care in custody and teamwork—process, which is the new protocol for suicide reduction, focuses on the evidence for when prisoners are most vulnerable, for example their first night in custody, and how to ensure that we deal with them. But we still need to reduce the number of suicides further.
Ninety-three women have died in prisons in England and Wales since the 2007 Corston report. When the new female offender strategy is published, will it focus on community alternatives to prison, especially for the 70% of women who are sentenced to six months or less?
Absolutely. This is a common theme. We have clear evidence that reducing the use of custodial short sentences and instead diverting people into the community can be good for protecting the public, by reducing reoffending, but it is also very good for mental health and for reducing suicide.