'Reduce prisoners' to cut suicides
Fewer people should be sent to prison to help cut the number of suicides, according to the head of a Government review.
Lord Harris claimed resources were being stretched because individuals are jailed unnecessarily.
The Labour peer was drafted in earlier this year to study how to reduce self-inflicted deaths in custody. He is expected to present his conclusions next summer.
Prison suicides have risen by nearly half since 2010, with 87 inmates taking their own lives in the 12 months to this September, according to Ministry of Justice figures.
Lord Harris told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The critical issue is why some prisoners are (in jail) in the first place.
"Are there interventions that could have been done, could have saved the Government money by stopping them ending up in the criminal justice system in the first place, or not necessarily ending up in prison?
"Obviously there will always be a core of prisoners who do need to be in prison. But, if some of the others were not there, there would be more resources to make sure those individuals were supported and prison achieved its objectives in terms of rehabilitation."
National Offender Management Service chief executive Michael Spurr said reducing the number of self-inflicted deaths in prisons was a top priority.
"The rise in the latter part of 2013 and in the early months of this year was very concerning and we have been working hard to understand the reasons for this," he said.
"As is the case in society at large, there is no simple explanation, with complex and individual reasons behind any suicide.
"Every death is a tragedy for the individual and their families and we will continue to work tirelessly to prevent suicides in our prisons."