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Local jail tops the league for inmates’ suicide rates

By Bedfordshire On Sunday  |  Posted: September 24, 2012

By KATHRYN CAIN

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More inmates at Bedford Prison have taken their own lives in the last year than any other jail in England and Wales.

Some ex-cons claim suicidal depression can often go unnoticed for months.

HMP Bedford headed the list as having the highest rate of suicides in 2011/12 with four prisoners out of the current population of approximately 465 offenders dying as a result of selfinflicted injury.

One of these men was 36-year-old Blake Ross who was awaiting trial for murder. He was found dead in his cell in July last year with his airway obstructed by a tourniquet.

A recent report on safety in custody published by the Ministry of Justice with the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) found that 66 inmates committed suicide between April 2011 and March 2012 out of a total of 211 deaths in total which included natural causes and homicides.

In an exclusive interview with Bedfordshire on Sunday, one former Bedford prisoner revealed that it could take several weeks to get referred to a specialist to treat depression but often inmates weren’t taken seriously leading their condition to deteriorate.

He said: “When you go in there you do feel depressed and many people are on drugs and don’t tell anyone how they are feeling. Some people just say they are depressed to get a prescription and then they sell it on which means when you really are feeling that way you aren’t taken seriously.

“You may have committed a crime but does that mean you should pay for it with your life? “I suffered from depression myself and went to see a doctor 2-3 times just to get referred and then that took another 6-7 weeks. You also don’t want to admit you are depressed because it makes you look weak, inviting all kinds of other troubles.

“There are people who can come in from the outside to help you but it takes too long to see them and while you are waiting you could be getting worse and worse.

“I don’t think they have the right people in there to deal with it properly.” He also claimed he had seen two prisoners hang themselves during previous sentences he has served, one of which was in Bedford last year.

According to the report the number of suicides in custody nationally has risen since 2008, the majority of which have involved males as they make up 95 per cent of the 87,000 prison population, although in the 10 years previous numbers have remained low from 95 cases in 2002 to 57 in 2011.

Ian Blakeman, Governor at HMP Bedford said: "We are acutely aware of issues around prisoner safety.

"Staff are regularly trained in suicide prevention and we are able to call upon the expertise of a dedicated Mental Health In Reach team who provide excellent care to prisoners in crisis.

"Deaths in custody have a profound effect on other prisoners and staff and are devastating for the friends and families left behind. We work extremely hard to address the issues around safety in custody and as a service we save many more people through staff interventions than we lose."

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