A prison with the highest suicide rate in England and Wales is “barely fit for purpose”, a report has said.Twenty inmates have killed themselves at HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes in the past five years.A report by the Independent Monitoring Board blamed a lack of experienced prison officers and use of outside staff for an “impoverished regime”.The Prison Service said more frontline officers were being recruited and prisoner welfare had been improved.There were eight deaths at the 819-capacity Category A prison in 2016 but none in 2017 up to the latest report in November. The next highest suicide numbers in the past five years were recorded at HMP Liverpool, which has a 1,300 capacity, with 14, and Leeds, which has a 1,212 capacity, with 13.
The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) report said: “The board is deeply saddened to report again an unprecedented number of deaths.””The last two year’s reports indicated serious staff shortages, which have only worsened throughout this period,” it added.”New staff are entering the service but retention rates of experienced staff is poor. The number of inexperienced staff is regularly between 40 and 60%.”High numbers of deaths and “near misses” have meant in early spring this year nearly 10% of prisoners were on watch for self-harm, the report said.”The board is deeply disappointed that, despite repeated warnings, reducing staffing levels, overcrowding, budget cuts and impoverished regimes have resulted in a service that is barely fit for purpose.”A Prison Service spokesperson said increased numbers of frontline officers had been deployed to improve the daily running of the prison.He added that a new package of support was available for prisoners during their first few days in custody with specially trained staff for their first night, and tailored NHS and mental health support.
Source: BBC Beds