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Suicide in prisons unacceptable says Howard League

3 November 2016

“Suicide in prisons unacceptable says Howard League”

The Wellington Howard League says that the increase in suicides and self-harm in prisons is unacceptable, and demonstrates that the Department of Corrections is not doing enough to manage mental illness, substance abuse and safety in our prisons.

Corrections has released data that shows 11 people died from unnatural deaths in prison in 2015/16 (including 10 from suicide) - the same number as the previous two years combined. The number of self-harm/threat-to-life incidents increased from four in 2014/15 to 26 in 2015/16.

Mental illness and substance abuse disorders are common in prison. A 2015 study showed that 62% of recent prisoners had experienced one or both in the 12 months before entering prison. In addition, prisons, by their nature, are hubs for depression. Factors such as isolation, 23 hour lockdowns and a culture of dehumanisation increase the risk of depression and self-harm.

Howard League spokesperson Jane Maltby says that Corrections needs to take immediate action to reduce the number of unnatural deaths and self-harm incidents in prison, including by investing in mental health and improving the monitoring of substance abuse.


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