The Howard League for Penal Reform
Obviously the main cost of prison suicides are the emotional pain for the family and friends, prisoners and prison staff and for all those who knew the individual who died, as well as the tragedy of a life cut needlessly short.
The Howard League for Penal Reform has raised awareness about prison suicides for many years, with increased attention over recent months which has seen the prison suicide rate shoot up.
Yesterday (12 February 2016), they published a research briefing on the financial costs of prison suicides in a further attempt to galvanise government action in suicide prevention.
The headline figures are shocking:
There were 95 suicides in prison in the 12 months to September 2015. It is estimated that the cost of these suicides is at least £160m and could be as high as £300m
What are the costs of prison suicides?
There has been no published research on the economic costs of prison suicide. The costs resulting from a suicide in prison are likely to be substantially higher than the average cost of suicide (itself estimated at £1.67 million) due to the impact a death has on the prison service as well as wider society.
If costs for the 95 suicides in prison in the 12 months to September 2015 were equivalent to the costs of a suicide in the community this would amount to around £150m.
However, the Howard League argues that additional costs associated with deaths in custody will likely substantially raise these costs. Taking these into account, the costs could be anywhere between £160m and £300m. Some of the extra costs are detailed below:
Financial impact on prisons
A death in custody will have an economic impact on prison budgets. Staff have to comply with statutory duties following the death of a prisoner and this will impact on their working day. Resources will also be required to provide additional counselling and support for staff and prisoners affected by the death.
This is of particular concern at a time when the number of prison sector staff has been reduced so sharply – 30% over the last three years.
Additionally, and unsurprisingly, studies on the impact of suicide on frontline staff have shown it can lead to increased rates of sickness and absenteeism, resulting in additional costs.