Deaths double in Midland prisons
The number of deaths in prisons across the West Midlands and Staffordshire has more than doubled, new figures show.
A total of 23 inmates lost their lives inside in 2016, compared to just 10 the year before.
HMP Birmingham and HMP Oakwood, the two G4S-run prisons, had the highest death count with seven and six respectively.
Other deaths included five at HMP Stafford, three at HMP Featherstone, one apiece at HMP Dovegate in Uttoexeter and Drake Hall, the women's prison in Eccleshall. Both HMP Swinfen Hall, near Lichfield, and HMP Brinsford, the young offenders institute next to Featherstone, recorded no deaths last year.
The figures, released by the Ministry of Justice, also show that four prisoners in the regions took their own life last year - the same amount as 2015.
Oakwood, the UK's largest prison, saw the biggest rise in the number of deaths. It did not record any in 2015 but had six in 2016. It also had one inmate take their own life last year compared to none the year before.
Jerry Petherick, the custodial and detention services managing director of G4S, which also runs HMP Birmingham, said the firm always worked hard to 'understand the causes and identify any lessons to be learned'.
He said: "Every death in custody is a tragedy and is always thoroughly investigated by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman. We will always work with the investigators and our colleagues in NHS healthcare teams to understand the causes and identify any lessons to be learned.
"The rising level of violence and self-harm shown in today's data underlines the extent of the challenge facing our prisons alongside our colleagues around the country. Our staff do tremendous work to bear down on violence and detect, intercept and seize drugs and other contraband which destabilises prison regimes.
"We will continue to work closely with our partners in the prisons we manage as well as with the Ministry of Justice to further improve safety for prisoners and our staff."
The number of deaths at HMP Birmingham, which was the scene of a riot last month, increased from four to seven over the same period. These figures include one suicide in 2015 and one in 2016.
HMP Featherstone also saw a rise after its zero deaths in 2015 increased to three last year. There was also one suicide last year compared to none the year before.
HMP Stafford, which houses notorious paedophile Rolf Harris, did not have any suicides last year but did record five deaths, four more than 2015.
Both Dovegate and Brinsford were the two prisons in the region to record a decrease in deaths, with the latter's one in 2015 decreasing to none in 2016 and the former's three in 2015 decreasing to one last year. Both prison's recorded a suicide each in 2015 but none in 2016.
HMP Drake Hall had one death last year, which was recorded as a suicide.
Liz Truss, the justice secretary in charge of the country's prisons, said: "Since becoming Justice Secretary, I have been clear that the violence, self-harm and deaths in our prisons are too high.
"I have taken immediate action to stabilise the estate by tackling the drugs, drones and phones that undermine security. We are also investing £100m annually to boost the frontline by 2,500 officers.
"These are long-standing issues that will not be resolved in weeks or months but our wholescale reforms will lay the groundwork to transform our prisons, reduce reoffending and make our communities safer."
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