Prison suicide rate 'too high'
The prison where a lodger accused of murdering his landlady and her mother was found hanged in his cell has a suicide rate which has been "too high for too long", inspectors have said.
Chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick said there were seven self-inflicted deaths at Manchester Prison in less than two years, with prison staff simply saying "that was the way things were in Manchester".
The inspection last September came before alleged killer Barry Morrow was found hanged in his cell there earlier this month. Morrow was due to face trial in May over the deaths of Angela Holgate, 54, and Alice Huyton, 75, whose strangled bodies were found at Mrs Holgate's home in Southport on December 3.
Mr Hardwick said: "The level of self-inflicted deaths has been too high for too long and should be no more accepted as an inevitable feature of the prison today than any of the other grim aspects of its past.
"Just over 20 years ago, Strangeways, as HMP Manchester was generally known, had a notorious reputation and was almost completely destroyed by one of the worst riots in modern prison history. It is now completely transformed and in many ways provides a model to which other local prisons should aspire."
But inspectors found there had been seven self-inflicted deaths between the beginning of 2009 and September last year, "a high number compared with similar prisons", and about 20 so-called suicide and self-harm documents were open at any one time.
Mr Hardwick continued: "There was a degree of fatalism in the prison's response to this - that was the way things were in Manchester, I was told. Arrangements for caring for prisoners at risk of self-harm or suicide were not poor but there was room for improvement.
"The prison was not active enough in ensuring lessons were learnt from previous cases (both at Manchester and elsewhere) and ensuring they were consistently applied. The leadership of the prison should now bear down on this issue with the same determination and skill with which they have successfully addressed so many other issues."
Geoff Dobson, deputy director of the Prison Reform Trust campaign group, said: "It is a matter of great concern that there have been seven self-inflicted deaths since the beginning of 2009.
"The Prison Reform Trust hopes staff will move swiftly to learn the lessons of these tragic incidents and improve arrangements for the care of prisoners at risk of self-harm."