About 600 people die in custody evey year in England and Wales, a report revealed today.
Patients detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 in psychiatric hospitals made up the highest number of the group, which also covered immigration detention, police and youth custody and approved premises.
About a third of the deaths were apparently from other than natural causes.
The figures were collected together for the first time in today’s report by the Forum for Preventing Deaths in Custody, which involves 15 organisations including the Prison Service and charity Inquest.
The forum was set up 18 months ago to focus on deaths in custody in response to a recommendation from the parliamentary joint committee on human rights.
John Wadham, chair of the forum and legal group director for the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, said some of the deaths could have been prevented and called for “lessons to be learned” by all the agencies involved.
He also called on ministers to ensure the forum had more resources.
“We have not been able to conduct or commission research into any of the issues we believe are worthy of it, and we have no capacity to monitor or report on the recommendations that may be made as a result of investigations, inspections or inquests,” he said.