A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said: "An HMP Elmley prisoner was found unresponsive in his cell at about 17:20 GMT (Tuesday 2 Dec). As with all deaths in custody, the Independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will conduct an investigation. Every death is a tragedy for the individual and their families."
Last month a report published by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) listed a number of criticisms of Elmley, including over-crowding, staff shortages and inadequate assessment and management of high risk prisoners. Designed to accommodate 985 prisoners Elmley holds 1,252.
HMIP carried out its unannounced inspection of Elmley in June and found " a very restricted and unpredictable regime" where "almost 200 men were unemployed and routinely spent 23 hours a day locked in their cells."
Referring to a spate of apparent suicides, the report noted: "The number of self-harm incidents had increased considerably, and there had been several apparently self-inflicted deaths."
Writing about the Elmley report, the Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform Frances Crook said: " The report on Elmley prison follows reports in the last three months that show similar problems in Doncaster (run by Serco), Glen Parva (where teenagers have taken their own lives), Wandsworth, Cookham Wood (holds children), Altcourse (run by G4S), Gartree, Wymott, Swaleside, Chelmsford, Isis, Hindley (young adults), Preston, Ranby, Birmingham (G4S), Winchester and Wormwood Scrubs.
"This is a public service in meltdown."
In September it was reported there was a 64% rise in prison suicides in 2013/14 as a total of 90 prisoners took their own lives.
All of these were looked into by Nigel Newcomen, the prisons and probation ombudsman, who said: "There have been too many instances of prisons failing to adequately identify the risk of suicide posed by prisoners, despite clear warning signs being present. Even when risk of suicide was identified, monitoring arrangements and case reviews were too often inadequate."