Article published: Friday, March 2nd 2012
High suicide rates at Strangeways prison have sparked calls for an “urgent review” from Inquest, the charity which investigates deaths in custody.
The calls came after a report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons on Strangeways, officially known as HMP Manchester, criticised the prison for not acting on earlier recommendations to prevent self-inflicted deaths.
Since 2009, seven prisoners have taken their own lives while in the custody of HMP Manchester, with a further two occurring since the beginning of this year.
Presenting the report, based on a recent unannounced inspection, Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said “there was a degree of fatalism in the prison’s response to this”, adding “’that was the way things were in Manchester’, I was told.”
Recommendations from 2009 which had only been partly implemented included refresher training for all staff on care in custody, and the provision of care suites on all wings. The report also found the prison to have “no procedures to investigate deaths shortly after release”, with investigations only carried out at the discretion of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.
Co-Director of Inquest Deborah Coles expressed serious concerns over the number of suicides at the prison, two of which have occurred this year, bringing the total to 29 since 2000, described in the report as “higher than most other prisons”.
“There needs to be an urgent review of what action has been taken in response to investigation and inquest findings, as it appears measures are still not in place to protect the most vulnerable individuals,” said Coles.
Concerns over the use of wing officers to complete care in custody reviews, non-specific care plans and inconsistent case management were also highlighted by inspectors as areas in need of attention. The report concluded “insufficient priority and focus” was given to ensuring lessons were learnt from previous deaths.
When questioned a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “The number of self-inflicted deaths at Manchester in recent years is not disproportionate to comparable establishments, but there is no complacency and the Governor and his team will continue to work to further reduce the rate of self-harm and to prevent suicides.”
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