Our work in prisons

People in prison are between five and ten times more likely than the general population to take their own lives*.

Samaritans works in partnership with prison services to reduce the number of self-inflicted deaths and self-harm amongst prisoners.

Listener badge in a prison

Working together to reduce suicide in prisons

Our relationship with the prison services has developed significantly over the last 20 years and the majority of prisons now have access to Samaritans’ services. We work with Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), Scottish Prison Service (SPS), Irish Prison Service (IPS) and Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) in suicide prevention. 

Prisoners can access Samaritans’ services in a number of ways:

1. Listener schemes

Samaritans volunteers select and train prisoners to offer confidential peer support to anyone who might be struggling to cope or who is feeling worried or frightened.

2. Telephone support

All prisons are required to offer prisoners access to Samaritans’ helpline free of charge.  

3. Correspondence Branch

If prisoners prefer,  they can write to us instead.  We offer a freepost service, so there is no need to buy a stamp and freepost envelopes are usually available in communal areas of the prison.

PO Box 90 90

4. Face to face support

If there is not a prison listener scheme available, volunteers from the local Samaritans branch may visit the prison to offer face to face support. Offenders may also have access to Samaritans branches whilst on temporary licence.

Support for prison staff

Prison staff are also welcome to  contact Samaritans. Our services are particularly important following a suicide in custody.  At these sad times, we play a key role in supporting both staff and prisoners.

*Samaritans’ estimate based on 100 per 100,000 compared to either the male only UK rate or the overall UK suicide rate in 2014; 95% of the prison population are male in England and Wales (Ministry of Justice, 2016; ONS, 2016).