A new report has highlighted ‘dangerous, longstanding failures’ across the prison system as well as analysis of and historically high levels of deaths in custody.
The report from INQUEST, called Deaths in prison: a national scandal examines the findings from 61 prison inquests in England and Wales in 2018 and 2019.
It details repeated safety failures including mental and physical healthcare, communication systems, emergency responses, and drugs and medication. It also looks at the wider statistics and historic context, showing the repetitive and persistent nature of such failings.
Deaths in prison: a national scandal said: “Every four days a person takes their life in prison, and rising numbers of ‘natural’ and unclassified deaths are too often found to relate to serious failures in healthcare. The lack of government action on official recommendations is leading to preventable deaths.”
INQUEST’s research also details the experiences of bereaved families who struggle to access minimal legal aid for inquests, while prisons automatically receive millions in public funding.
LEVELS OF NEGLECT
Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST, said: “This report exposes indefensible levels of neglect and despair in prison. Officials and Ministers repeat the empty words that ‘lessons will be learned’. Yet the recommendations of coroners, the prison ombudsman and inspectorate are being systematically ignored. This is a national scandal.”
Coles continued: “The personal stories of those who died show prisons failing in their duty of care towards people long failed by struggling health, education, welfare and social services. The system is also failing their families whose trauma over deaths is compounded by the struggle for truth, justice and change.
“In the long term, protecting both prisoners and the public from more harm will require investment in our communities, not ineffective punitive policies.”
Among the report’s recommendations are a new national oversight mechanism, to monitor and enforce the implementation of recommendations from investigations, inquests and inquiries on state related deaths and
reallocating resources to criminal justice to community-based health and welfare services.