[JURIST] The UK Ministry of Justice [official website] released figures [text, PDF] Thursday demonstrating a record number of suicides and other deaths in prisons in England and Wales in 2016. Many experts and politicians [Guardian report] have attributed the findings to overcrowding and a cut in funding and staffing. UK Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss [official profile] responded [press release] to the statistics:
Since becoming Justice Secretary, I have been clear that the violence, self-harm and deaths in our prisons are too high. I have taken immediate action to stabilise the estate. … These are long-standing issues that will not be resolved in weeks or months but our wholescale reforms will lay the groundwork to transform our prisons, reduce reoffending and make our communities safer.
In November Truss announced [BBC report] significant prison reforms to add officers, drug tests and more autonomy in the system.
Prisoner issues have been prominent across the world. Following a clemency order issued by President Pierre Nkurunziza, Burundi’s government began releasing [JURIST report] scores of prisoner earlier this month. Also this month Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said that a referendum [JURIST report] on the government’s plan to pardon thousands of prisoners was needed after thousands protested the proposal. The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii filed a complaint [JURIST report] with the US Department of Justice in January, stating that overcrowding in the state correctional facilities is resulting in violations of the prisoners’ Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. In December Bolivian President Evo Morales pardoned 1,800 prisoners [JURIST report] in a continued attempt to cut down on prison overcrowding.