Katharine Sacks-Jones, Director of Agenda, says: “The National Audit Office’s report about the mental health of prisoners presents some worrying findings.
“We know that the number of women in prison taking their own lives has risen to unacceptably high levels. In 2015 rates of self-inflicted deaths of women in prison surpassed men’s for the first time since 2007.
“Many women in the criminal justice system have experienced violence over the course of their lives and have significant mental health problems, often as a result of that abuse. Prison is simply not the right place for such a vulnerable group.
“Instead they need support in the community to tackle the underlying issues they face, including help with mental health problems.
“It is vital that women have access to gender and trauma-informed mental health support which takes into account their specific needs and experiences. The call for each mental health trust to have a clinical lead for women’s mental health will help drive change.
“The government must act urgently and prioritise women’s mental health if we are to avoid more vulnerable women taking their own lives both in prison and in the community.”