Spoiler alert – this report will not make comfortable reading for those who work in the prison sector.
2016 seen as the “deadliest year on record”.
INQUEST has recently published a new report, Deaths in prison: a national scandal. It roundly condemns pretty much everyone who works in or is associated with the prison sector.
The report hones in on the following concerns:
- Mental and physical healthcare provision;
- Failures in communication between health, mental health and prison staff;
- Problems with emergency response; and
- Issues with both prescription and illicit drug use within prisons.
The report is scattered with words like “neglect”, “systemic failings in care” and “wide ranging failures to provide basic medical care”. The report goes on to attribute these problems in the prison sector to a lack of “the right political and institutional will”.
Even the lawyers are not safe from criticism! The report recites a familiar trope. Skilled advocates and legal representatives working for families equals good. The legal representation of prisons, healthcare providers and other institutions equals bad. We also see the usual reference to the public sector’s “unlimited” funds for legal representation at inquests. Nothing new there.
The report advances the following recommendations:
- Halt prison building, commit to an immediate reduction in the prison population and divert people away from the criminal justice system.
- Provide additional training to prison staff to meet minimum human rights standards.
- Ensure access to justice for bereaved families through provision of non-means tested legal aid for inquests.
- Establish a ‘National Oversight Mechanism’ to collate, analyse and monitor learning and implementation of learning arising from inquests and other investigations into deaths.
- Ensure accountability for institutional failings that lead to deaths in prison (for example, engaging in prosecutions under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act).
I will leave you to make your own minds up about how balanced an account this report gives of the prison sector.
If you are facing a potentially difficult appearance at the Coroner’s court, do get in touch. Our specialist inquest team would be more than happy to support you and your staff through this process.