Deaths in prisons soar to record numbers

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The coronavirus crisis has pushed the overall rate of prison deaths to a record high, new figures have revealed.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for the Government to release all low-risk prisoners serving short sentences to tackle the spread of Covid-19 in prisons.

The latest Safety in Custody statistics, released today by the Ministry of Justice, show that 109 prisoners died between October and December 2020 – a 70% increase on the previous three months and the highest quarterly total on record.

Since March 2020, 71 prisoners have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid, and 51 of those deaths are suspected to be due to Covid.

Figures released in September showed that just 316 people were released under the Government’s Covid early release schemes since the start of the pandemic – far short of the “up to 4,000” announced by Government in April.

Responding to the figures, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

“Far too many people are dying in our prisons. It is clear the Conservative Government hasn’t done nearly enough to protect prison staff, prisoners and our communities from the spread of Covid.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Liberal Democrats have been calling on the Government to release all low-risk prisoners serving short sentences and suspend any new short sentences to alleviate the severe overcrowding, so that prisoners and staff can practice proper social distancing.

“The Government must finally listen to prison governors, public health experts and the Liberal Democrats, and take real action now to end overcrowding in prisons and combat the spread of this cruel virus.”

The Safety in custody quarterly: update to September 2020 is available here.

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