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Pauline’s Story

“The age of prisons is over”

visit websiteforward by: Tippa Naphtali
13th March 2006
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Pauline Campbell has died: 2008 >

This article has been put together as a tribute to Pauline Campbell, the mother of Sarah Campbell who died after taking an overdose of prescription drugs at Styal Prison in Cheshire. Pauline has been a tireless campaigner against deaths of women in custody since the tragic death of her daughter Sarah in 2003.

She was awarded theEmma Humphreys Memorial Prize in October 2005. The prize is awarded each year to a woman or group who has, through their actions, writing or campaigning; raised awareness of violence against women and children.

The following was written by Pauline at our request, and we are honoured to give this strong and courageous woman a platform to share her views, and encourage others to become involved in the fight for reforms that are already long overdue.

By Pauline Campbell (written for 4WardEver: March 2006)
Trustee of the Howard League for Penal Reform
Awarded the 2005 Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize on 20th October 2005

My 18-year-old daughter, Sarah, died while on ‘suicide watch’ in the so-called care of HMP and YOI Styal, Cheshire, in January 2003. She experienced Styal’s brutal regime for just 24 hours before dying of prescription anti-depressant drug poisoning.

Strip searched twice on arrival at the jail, she was taken to the segregation (punishment) block, and isolated, with sensory deprivation (i.e. no television, no radio, and no-one to talk to).

Despite knowing that she had ingested an overdose, prison staff (including a nurse) walked out of the cell, locked the door, and left her alone. She vomited blood and vomit while alone in the cell. There was a delay of 40 minutes before an ambulance was summoned. On arrival at the prison gates, it was held up for eight minutes before being allowed in.

In that brief 24 hours in the ‘care’ of Styal, Sarah was vomiting, fitting, suffered several cardiac arrests, and was bleeding from the nose and mouth when she died. The jury did not return a “suicide” verdict, but said a “failure in the duty of care” had contributed to her death, and there had been “avoidable delays” in summoning the ambulance.

Three years after the death of my only child, there is still no formal acceptance by the Home Office that they have a responsibility for Sarah’s death.

In April 2004, incensed by the continuing suffering and deaths of women inmates, I decided to increase pressure on the Government by engaging in ‘direct action.’

Each time an apparently self-inflicted death is reported; I organise and lead a demonstration outside the prison. Sixteen protests have been held. I have been arrested on ten occasions, handcuffed, locked in police cells, and put before the criminal courts. But I remain undeterred.

When demonstrations take place, I stop the prison vans as they attempt to enter the prison. It is symbolic, and is saying: “No, you must not bring women to this jail. It’s unsafe. There’s been a death here.”


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