LONDON: Prisons are struggling to stop inmates self-harming as research shows a quarter of all women self-harm while incarcerated. Women who self-harm by cutting, poisoning or strangling themselves are more likely to commit suicide, research shows.

The number of people taking their own lives while in prison has fallen over the past six years but the Oxford University study shows the same cannot be said for incidents of self-harm. In both sexes, people most at risk of self-harm are white, aged under 20, on remand or serving a life sentence, the Times reports.

Incidents of self-harm among women were ten times highter than men - 24 per cent of females self-harmed within a year compared to just six per cent of males. Women jailed for violent crime were more likely to hurt themselves and the most common methods were cutting and scratching. Oxford University researchers looked at cases of self-harm between 2004 and 2009 and found there were 139,195 involving 26,510 prisoners. Other methods inmates used were poisoning, overdose, or self-strangulation.

The incidents of self-harm among prisoners as a whole is about thirty times that of UK which is just 0.6 per cent. Suicides among male prisoners who self-harm is about 334 per 100,000 compated to the general male population rate of suicide which is 79 per 100,000. Dr Seena Fazel, one of the researchers, said: 'now we know the extent to which the risk of subsequent suicide in prisoners who self-harm is greater than the general prison population, suicide prevention initiatives should be changed to include a focus on prisoners who are self-harming, especially repeatedly.'–MOL