Sixty-five young adults and children have died in prisons across England and Wales over the past four years, a report has revealed.
On average one young person a month took their life in jail between January 2011 and December 2014.
The report documents the deaths of 62 people aged 18 to 24, one 15-year-old and two 17-year-olds.
Of those, 83% were classified as “self-inflicted”, with the majority, 43%, taking place in adult prisons.
Twenty-three deaths occurred in prisons containing both adult and young adult offenders, while 14 took place in young offender institutions.
HMYOI Glen Parva saw the highest number of deaths, with six, followed by HMP Chelmsford where four people died.
The report also looked into information gathered by INQUEST, a charity providing free advice to those bereaved by a death in custody, from the families of the deceased.
It found that 30% of the prisoners had been in care, or had suffered some kind of family breakdown which required them to live outside of their immediate family home.
Almost half of them, 49%, had a history of self-harm, while 70% had mental health issues.
It was also revealed that 23% of the young people and children who died, had special needs or learning difficulties.
While more than a third had problems with alcohol and drug misuse.
The report, Stolen Lives And Missed Opportunities: The deaths of young adults and children in prison, argues for a fundamental rethink about the use of prison.
One of the main concerns it raises is that prison establishments have not learned lessons from previous deaths because the same mistakes are often repeated.
Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST, said: “This report exposes a litany of systemic neglect, institutionalized complacency and short-sighted policies.
“These deaths are the most extreme outcome of a system that fails some of society’s most disadvantaged children and young people.”
She added that the number of deaths was so high because prison “is overused” as the solution to a range of social problems.
While Sara Llewellin, chief executive of the report’s funder, Barrow Cadbury Trust, said: “The fact that so many of the 62 deaths of 18-24 year olds in prison in the last four years could have been avoided if already-known lessons been learned, makes the current failure to change practice in these cases all the more appalling.”