Tragic first female death in prison of 2009
compiled from various sources
published: 4WardEver UK – 7 February 2009
News updates on this case are listed at the foot of this item
Alison Colk was found hanging in her cell on 8th January 2009 at around 6.30am. Staff and paramedics attempted to revive her but she was pronounced dead 10 minutes after her discovery. She was not on suicide watch and the death was referred to the Prison Ombudsman.
Alison died one day into her sentence at Styal Prison, which was for 28 days. Deborah Coles from the charity INQUEST has argued that there is no justification for sentencing vulnerable women to 28 days of imprisonment.
Around the same time in the previous year another woman, Lisa Marley was found hanging in her cell at Styal. She was on remand. At the time of writing, her inquest had still not taken place.
Following news of Alison’s death, John Gunn, the brother of a Lisa Marley, slammed the jail as “disgraceful” and called for an official investigation. Lisa Marley, a 32-year-old mother from South Shore, was discovered hanged in her cell at women’s HMP Styal last year.
Her death devastated her family who are still struggling to come to terms with their loss. And now, after the death of Alison Colk at the prison, Ms Marley’s brother John Gunn has called for strong action.
Mr Gunn said sackings and even the closure of the jail should follow as the institution was not fulfilling its duty of care to inmates. Mr Gunn said: “The prison rang me and told us that another girl had taken her life. It’s very hard to take. “I don’t want this to happen to any more families.
“If it was any other area of business, people would be out of their jobs given their record. The people running the place have a duty to look after these girls, no matter whether they have committed crimes or not. “If they can’t do that they should shut the place down.” The Ministry of Justice said it could not comment on individual cases or Mr Gunn’s remarks. A spokesman said; “Our thoughts are with friends and family of Ms Colk.”
During the past 10 years, 905 people have died of self-inflicted deaths. And 2008 was a year where the UK prison population had reached appalling levels.
The campaigning organisation INQUEST has referred to Styal as: ‘a prison with a disturbing history of deaths of vulnerable women’. A spokesperson stated: “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”.
Charity group INQUEST: Dismay at first death of female prisoner in 2009
25th January 2009
1,789 deaths in prisons in 10 years (pdf file)
5th January 2009
Investigation launched as prisoner dies
1st January 2009