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Huge increase in prison suicides

(12 Posts)
Eloethan Thu 23-Oct-14 02:22:26

The prisoner suicide rate has risen by 69% over the last nineteen months. Non-fatal self-harm is also a big problem. The Chief Inspector of Prisons has said that the prison system is facing a rapid deterioration in safety.

Research has already shown that a large number of prisoners have significant mental health problems, which are not adequately addressed within the current system.

I think this is a disgraceful situation.

absent Thu 23-Oct-14 06:46:26

I agree – and the prison and young offenders' suicide rates were far from healthy nineteen months ago. At least a part of the penal system is punishment through loss of freedom, but that should not be leading to people killing themselves.

KatyK Fri 24-Oct-14 10:11:32

In the 1970s my brother was sent to what was then called Borstal for a couple of petty thieving offences. Obviously what he did was wrong but the judge said he would 'make an example of him' and he gave him 18 months. He was eventually sent to an open Borstal but for a few weeks prior to this he was housed in a couple of prisons that housed some of Britain's worst criminals. My brother was 18. When we visited him in Borstal it was obvious that something terrible had happened to him in there but insisted that he was OK. On his release, he was a totally different person. He began sleeping rough and although we tried to help him there was not much help in those days. He eventually committed suicide. We have no idea what goes on in these places. I had hoped things had changed, obviously not.

Eloethan Fri 24-Oct-14 23:17:09

KatyK I'm so sorry that you've had this tragedy in your life. What happened to your brother was terrible.

The exposure of younger or mentally ill/emotionally fragile offenders to older, hardened criminals, in combination with inadequate staffing levels and overcrowding, is something which is reported to be an increasing problem. Added to this is what has been acknowledged to be the corrupt practices of some warders who facilitate the smuggling of drugs into prisons and turn a blind eye to the bullying and exploitation of vulnerable prisoners. It is no wonder that the levels of self-harm and suicide have massively increased.

Many people seem to be of the opinion "you've done the crime, now do the time" but prison is meant to rehabilitate as well as to punish. We have the largest number of prisoners in Western Europe and recidivism rates are similarly high.

KatyK Sat 25-Oct-14 18:29:42

Thank you Eloethan. I agree with all you say.

TriciaF Sun 26-Oct-14 10:19:37

This is such a sad subject - Katy, what happened to your brother was a tragedy, the poor lad, and poor family.
I think the prison system in general is contrary to humanity, all it does is to bring many of the prisoners to a lower level. Wish there was an alternative.
I wonder if there's still a prison visitors service? I used to know a few people who visited Hull prison when we lived there.

Nelliemoser Sun 26-Oct-14 10:31:55

KatyK (((hugs)))

Eloethan Sun 26-Oct-14 12:05:58

TriciaF For serious offenders, there probably isn't an alternative to prison but I feel that harsh and inhumane conditions only serve to brutalise people and make them more aggressive and resentful of society. I expect that will earn me the label of "do gooder" but my feeling is that if something isn't working (and it isn't - re-offending rates are very high in this country), another approach is needed.

There are other countries that concentrate just as much on rehabilitation as punishment, with much lower rates of re-offending.

KatyK Sun 26-Oct-14 13:21:44

Thank you everyone. It was a long time ago now. Whatever happened to him must have been pretty bad to make a young man go to the top of a block of flats and throw himself off. sad Our childhood was dreadful, so maybe it was the final straw, I don't know. Like I said, I assumed things had improved, I hadn't realised the numbers had increased until Eloethan's post.

Tegan Sun 26-Oct-14 13:32:53

I saw a documentary about Bonnie and Clyde a while back. All the things that Clyde did were a result of his treatment in prisin when he was sent there for a minor offence when he was young [not even sure if he'd been guilty of the offence either]. It made for grim watching.

whenim64 Sun 26-Oct-14 13:41:25

KatyK I'm so sorry to learn about your brother. Prison is the most inhumane environment, despite what is done for rehabilitation and basic care of prisoners.

Before retiring, one of my responsibilities was training staff about suicide and self harm in probation, so I spent a lot of time in prisons, learning how Safer Custody Officers try to keep prisoners safe, how they assess risk of harm, and how they meet to discuss 'near misses' in order to get better at keeping prisoners safe. The inventiveness of prisoners who intend to commit suicide by finding elaborate methods was detailed and shown to every prison officer in their training, so they'd be on high alert. Every prisoner is checked as they arrive in reception to determine whether they want to harm themselves, then routinely from then on. The ACCT (Assessment, Care in Custody, and Teamwork) is started and reviewed, and it involves every person involved with the prisoner and should bring in family, too. It isn't closed as long as there is a risk. It's such a useful, but time-consuming, process - suicides plummeted year on year when ACCT was introduced. Same in probation - it was successful. It was good to see that people collaborating to keep prisoners safe was actually showing it could be done.

It seems now, a few years on, that prisons can't cope. Chris Grayling has piled more responsibilities onto prison staff and imposed more cuts. The Prison and Probation Ombudsman investigates every death and makes recommendations which have to be carried out across the board, from Governor One down to new prison staff. The Prison and Probation Ombudsman's website carries every inquiry and its findings, if anyone wants to find out more. Inquiries can take a year for their findings to be published - coroners use their reports when looking into every death.

Below are two reports from websites that give useful information - the Prison and Probation Ombudsman and Inside Time. I hate to see phrases like 'learning lessons' - exactly when will those lessons be learned - in fact, by bringing in the ACCT process, it was believed lessons actually had been learned? And I don't like the term 'commit suicide' - suicide is not a crime - it's a crime that prisoners are not kept safe, and the issue of corporate manslaughter has been raised periodically. Perhaps one day a Home Secretary, Home Office Minister and prison governor might find themselves being charged with this crime.

KatyK Sun 26-Oct-14 14:45:26

Thank you When. You are all very kind, I wasn't looking for sympathy, it was many years ago but just horrified that it now seems worse.