[A-List] UK economy: record low unemployment
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
Wed Dec 11 06:58:08 MST 2002
Jail overcrowding pushes up suicides
Prisons inspector calls for end to 'warehousing'
Alan Travis, home affairs editor
Wednesday December 11, 2002
The "debilitating and chilling effect" of overcrowding in jails is driving
up the suicide rate and stifling rehabilitation work, the chief inspector of
prisons said yesterday.
In her first annual report, Anne Owers said: "There can be no doubt that
most prisons are less safe than they were a year ago and many are also less
The prison population has risen by 6,840 since the beginning of the year to
a record 72,500, and the number of inmates who have killed themselves has
reached 89 since January, compared with 72 self-inflicted deaths in 2001.
The suicide rate in prisons in England and Wales is rising more rapidly than
the increase in the prison population and has reached 116 for every 100,000
inmates, compared with 89 for every 100,000 a year ago.
"The number appears to be rising," Ms Owers said. "Recently, there were
eight suicides in one week, five of them within 24 hours. These shocking
statistics are, of course, directly connected to prison overcrowding and the
consequential 'churn' as prisoners continually move into and out of prisons
throughout the estate."
Although there have been improvements at some prisons such as Doncaster,
which saw six suicides in one year, the chief inspector said prisons booked
in and out as many as 100 inmates each day, with many of them arriving late
at night. This made carrying out risk assessments very difficult. Some of
those inmates most at risk were simply not being identified.
"Some prisons still fail to carry out proper risk assessments for cell
sharing, even following the deaths of Christopher Edwards and Zahid
Mubarek," said Ms Owers, who also pressed for greater independent
investigation of those deaths in custody which raise questions "that go to
the heart of the safe running of a prison". These were matters which could
not be dealt with by an inquest.
The chief inspector said overcrowding meant that disturbances had been "more
numerous and increasingly serious" as frustration over the amount of time
spent in cells, or over being hundreds of miles away from home, could easily
Appearing before the Commons home affairs select committee yesterday Ms
Owers said she would not be surprised if a legal action under the Human
Rights Act were brought over conditions in some prisons. She singled out the
20% of the prison population who have to share a cell meant for one, with a
common toilet in full view and often providing the only place where one can
sit to eat, as falling far short of basic standards of decency.
"There are choices to be made, she said. "Prisons that are properly
resourced and supported, and that are used only where necessary, can deliver
positive work that provides long-term public protection by reducing
reoffending. Or they can be 'Operation Container': warehousing prisoners and
firefighting to limit the damage to them or the prison system."
The director general of the prison service, Martin Narey, in evidence to the
committee yesterday, acknowledged the link between the rising number of
suicides and overcrowding: "The increased population and higher population
turnover, particularly in local prisons, is making it more difficult to
identify the suicidal and intervene and help them."
But he insisted that in difficult circumstances the prison service was
performing well and was likely to hit demanding targets on education, drug
treatment, and programmes to tackle offending behaviour and on getting
inmates into jobs.
Scottish Socialist Voice
5 December 2002
No rehab - just sweatshops
I am a prisoner serving four years for assault and robbery, a mistake I
accept full responsibility for.
But in the two years I have been in, I have seen little or no sign of
I read about courses in jails in the newspapers yet in here it takes months
to get onto a course like cognitive skills or anger management. That's if
the jail does the course.
In this jail it is very hard to get drug or alcohol counselling as they have
removed the courses and the councillors!
Of the courses left, they are useless, ran by officers who don't care and
have had a couple of weeks training.
Then when the course is finished we all get the same review copy so what is
In here they push us into work, sweat shops doing private contracts to make
the government hundreds of pounds.
The jail do not care for rehab - in my opinion all they want is workers for
the factories they have built.
May I also add my support for the fire service - it is disgusting what our
service men and women get paid for such a dangerous job.
More information about the A-List