There has been a worrying increase in the number of suicides as well as a rise in violence in prisons across England and Wales.
The Commons Justice Select Committee (CJSC) recently reported that there have been 100 suicides over the past year, along with a 20% rise in assaults, and a 57% rise in the number of fires.
As a result of their findings, the CJSC issued a warning to the Justice Secretary Michael Gove last week. The warning clearly highlighted the requirement for an urgent action plan to be implemented to tackle the sharp rise in deterioration in prisons. It was clear that the prison service can not wait until Mr Gove’s rehabilitation and reform plan is finalised and implemented.
Mr Gove has announced his response will be to release an extra £10 million into the budgets of prisons across England and Wales which will help to fund; extra prison staff, more training (including on suicide awareness), additional equipment (including body cameras and CCTV), and additional drug testing (including for legal highs).
However, the announcement has sparked criticism. Lord Falconer, Shadow Justice Secretary, welcomed the cash injection but stated that when considering the scale of the prison crisis, £10 million ‘looks risibly small’.
Whilst the Justice Secretary’s focus and actions regarding the prison crisis are long-awaited steps in the right direction, it does seem that more could be done to quickly address the rising number of issues faced in prisons throughout England and Wales. Particularly, in relation to the fast increasing number of suicides, which does indicate that there is a lack of awareness and failure to assess risks that prisoners pose to themselves.
If you require legal representation in connection with an inquest into the death of a loved one who has died whilst in prison, we have a specialist team who can assist you. In most circumstances you will be entitled to exceptional case funding from the Legal Aid Agency and Southerns hold a franchise in this area which will allow you to secure funding. For more information or to talk to one of our specialist inquest solicitors, please contact us.
We also work closely with INQUEST, a specialist organisation working with bereaved families and provides specialist advice on deaths in custody or detention or involving state failures in England and Wales. This includes a death in prison, in police custody or following police contact, in immigration detention or psychiatric care. INQUEST’s policy and parliamentary work is informed by its casework and they work to ensure that the collective experiences of bereaved people underpin that work. To read more about the work of INQUEST and their campaigns, please visit their website:- http://www.inquest.org.uk/