Charity INQUEST: Dismay at 1st death of female prisoner in 2009

INQUESTWoman in prison cell notes with sadness the self-inflicted death of 36 year old Alison Colk in HMP Styal on 8 January 2009, a prison with a disturbing history of deaths of vulnerable women.

Deborah Coles, Co-Director of INQUEST said: “It is deeply shocking that a woman has died one day into her sentence. Vital questions need to be asked about what possible justification can there be in sentencing a woman to just 28 days. Despite high level scrutiny of Styal prison,

“serious concerns remain about the safety and quality of life for women held there and why lessons from previous deaths appear not to have been learned. Unless more women are diverted from prison the increase in self inflicted deaths and the associated high levels of self harm, mental distress and family disruption will continue.”

Notes to editors:

1. This is the ninetieth self-inflicted death of a woman in prison in England and Wales since 1990. See Dying On The Inside: Examining Women’s Deaths In Prison for an in-depth examination of the issues.

2. Since 2000 there have been 12 self-inflicted deaths of women in Styal prison. The inquests held into many of these deaths have raised serious concerns about the quality of treatment and care afforded women in Styal and the inappropriateness of prison for many of the women held there.

3. The Corston Review was published in March 2007. The government responded to the review in November 2007 and has failed to allocate any resources to its implementation.

4. INQUEST is the only non-governmental organisation in England and Wales that works directly with the families of those who die in custody. It provides an independent free legal and advice service to bereaved people on inquest procedures and their rights in the coroner’s courts and conducts policy work on the issues arising.

5. INQUEST is campaigning to ensure that the Coroners and Justice Bill 2009 results in fundamental reform of an inquest system currently hampered by delay, inconsistency of approach and lack of resources and unable to fulfil its vital function of preventing unnecessary deaths.

6. The government must also make changes to ensure that bereaved families can participate effectively in inquest hearings by having equal access, alongside the police and Prison Service, to non means-tested public funding for their legal representation.

Press release & figures for deaths in Styal Prison (PDF file) >

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