The eight prisoners who committed suicide in Danish prisons in 2016 is a quadrupling of the previous year and the highest figure since the prison and probation service, Kriminalforsorgen, began keeping track 11 years ago.
John Hatting, the head of Kriminalforsorgsforeningen, the organisation responsible for civil personnel in Denmark’s prisons, speculated that the restructuring of the prison system could have an impact on the rise.
“It’s impossible to say what the explanation could be, but Kriminalforsorgen has been under immense pressure in recent years,” Hatting said, according to Metroxpress newspaper.
“So it hasn’t been possible to keep an eye on the inmates to the degree that was the case in the past.”
Over the past 11 years, the number of suicides in Danish prisons has fluctuated between one and seven per year, although it has remained between two and four over the past four years.
Kriminalforsorgen maintained that the number of suicides in 2016 has yet to be verified, so the figure of eight is only provisional for now.
Hatting argued that the risk of suicide is particularly high when inmates are being held in remand.
“It’s because they can feel like their lives are falling apart, and unfortunately that pushes some to try to commit suicide,” said Hatting.
“The prison employees have been under duress in recent years, so it’s about making sure there are enough personnel present to keep watch and try to notice the smallest of signals that inmates display.”