Grim toll of prisoners dying in Lancashire's prisons
Dozens of inmates have died in prison over the last decade, according to records from the Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen coroner.
With more than 2,000 people dying in prisons across England and Wales over this time, justice reform charities said the "chilling numbers" would have been previously unthinkable.
Ministry of Justice figures show Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen Coroner's Court reported 44 deaths in prison between 2011-2019.
Across England and Wales, 2,317 deaths were reported over this time period in all prison facilities, or within seven days of an inmate's release from custody – with 313 last year alone.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "The thousands of people who have died in prison are the victims of a system that puts political expediency above preventing crime and keeping people safe.
"It is time to reduce the prison population and save lives."
Separate figures from the MoJ show 59 per cent of prison deaths across England and Wales were from natural causes during this time, and 31 per cent were self-inflicted.
The Prison Reform Trust said the number of deaths in custody show the changes that successive governments have made to sentencing, resulting in an older and sicker prison population.
Peter Dawson, director of the organisation, said: “These chilling numbers would have been unthinkable only a decade ago.
"They reflect a dramatic surge in the number of people taking their own life as government cuts have made prisons dramatically less safe and constructive places.
"Bereaved families have paid a very high price for a decade of ever harsher political rhetoric on punishment, and the current government seems determined to double down on that trend.”
A government spokesman said: “The public rightly expects the most serious, violent and sexual offenders to be locked up. To restore confidence in the justice system we are recruiting more police officers and building extra modern prison places that will boost rehabilitation.
“Self-harm remains a concern which is why we have already trained more than 25,000 staff in suicide prevention, introduced the keyworker model and renewed our partnership with the Samaritans to provide emotional support for prisoners.”