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Preventing prison suicide: Staff perspectives

Suicide in prison has risen dramatically over the past three years and 119 people took their lives in 2016

Incidents of self-harm have risen by 26 per cent and violent incidents have risen by 40 per cent

Our review found that staffing shortages impacted on the safety of the prison

Prisoners are spending longer in their cells and less time meaningfully occupied

Substance misuse, specifically ‘legal highs’ like New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), is reported to be of increasing concern

Prison culture, where distress, self-harm and suicide attempts are seen as manipulative, rather than indicators of need and vulnerability, contributes to an unsafe environment

Prison staff are frequently exposed to distressing and traumatising events. Staff described working and living in prisons as being potentially ‘toxic’

Although prisoners can have multiple needs, often they do not meet the threshold for a mental health referral and therefore receive little support in prison

We need a profound culture shift in prisons from a primarily punitive approach, to one centred around recovery, wellbeing and rehabilitation

We will only see a significant improvement in prisoner wellbeing and decreased suicide rates when we recognise the traumatising and re-traumatising impact prison can have for both prisoners and staff.