published: 28 July 2016
INQUEST response to ‘Safety in Custody’ Statistics Bulletin Ministry of Justice March/June 2016.
Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said:
“In the past 12 months the prison system has lurched from crisis to crisis contributing to a culture where often vulnerable people increasingly self harm and take their own lives.
These shocking statistics belie any suggestion that the government is successfully pursuing a reform agenda. Assaults, self harm, self inflicted deaths, homicides are an endemic and ever-rising feature of the prison system, reflecting the desperate reality of prison life and the lamentable failure of the state to protect those in its care.
Prisons are places where the safety and dignity of prisoners is increasingly under threat. Every day INQUEST hears harrowing stories from the families of those who have died that reveal failures in treatment and care. The most troubling aspect of our work is the chronic failure of state bodies to act on the compelling evidence from investigations, inquests, government reviews and families themselves.
There needs to be a dramatic reduction in the use of prison, a redirection of resources into community alternatives, and into providing public funding for the families of the deceased, a willingness to act on learning from previous deaths and to hold those involved legally accountable for deaths across all state institutions. Without urgent action the endemic problem of death and self harm will continue with devastating consequences for prisoners and their families.”