The government is failing in its duty of care towards prisoners, as going to jail has become not only a deprivation of liberty but a “sentence to poorer health or healthcare”, MPs have warned. A new report by a parliamentary committee found increasingly “unsafe and unsanitary” prison conditions following budget reductions and a loss of prison officers were limiting prisoners’ access to healthcare and their ability to lead healthy lives.
The Health and Social Care Select Committee warned record levels of violence and self-harm, a poor quality diet and limited time out of cells due to staff shortages were contributing to a “cycle of deprivation and health inequality” in jails.
It said prisoners suffered “far worse health” than the general population, with the mortality rate of people in prison 50 per cent higher than the national average.
The report notes that “so-called natural cause deaths too often reflect serious lapses in care” and that “too many prisoners die in custody or shortly after release”.
It comes amid mounting concern over the crisis gripping prisons across England and Wales, with self-harm and violent attacks hitting record levels for the third time in a year last week.
Suicides increased by 12 per cent, from 78 to 87, indicating self-inflicted deaths are on the rise again following a decline following a peak in 2016.
Chair of the committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, said: “A prison sentence is a deprivation of someone’s liberty; not a sentence to poorer health or healthcare. Too many prisons remain unsafe and unsanitary.
“Violence and self-harm is at a record high, with illegal drugs adding to the problems for both prisoners and staff. Poor living conditions, diet and restricted access to healthcare and activity are compounding a cycle of deprivation and health inequality.” Read more
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