Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Suicides and unrest have soared, admits Home Office

UK:The already overcrowded prison population is set to go on rising and will top 80,000 within the next three years, a senior Home Office civil servant warned yesterday.

Martin Narey, commissioner for the correctional services, also confirmed that the prison service may soon have to use police cells to house inmates [prisoners], especially in the north-west where the overcrowding pressures are greatest.

Prison suicides, which reached a record 105 during the 2002 calender year, have continued to rise this year.

The prison service's annual report published yesterday also confirms that the growth in prison population is making it far harder to maintain control and order inside prisons in England and Wales.

It says that the Gold incident command suite [prison thugs] at prison service headquarters, which manages major disruption in prisons in England and Wales, was officially opened 62 times during 2002-3 a 27% increase.

In contrast the annual report of the youth justice board published last night shows that more intensive community punishments have helped cut the number of young people in custody by 9% in the past year.

The fall has reduced overcrowding and allowed for better work with the young offenders who are locked up.

Prison numbers in England and Wales passed the record 74,000 mark last Friday and Mr Narey, who oversees the prisons, probation and youth justice services, revealed that overcrowding with 14,000 prisoners, 1 in 5 of the total, having to "double up" in cells designed for one is not going to get any better over the next three years.

The range of serious incidents dealt with included the riot at Lincoln prison in October 2002 but also 28 hostage incidents; 26 other more minor riots; an inmate who barricaded himself in; and seven "roof climbs".

Mr Narey yesterday told John Denham, chairman of the Commons home affairs committee, that sucide rates had "exploded" with 54 self-inflicted [? suicide, prison inflicted] deaths, so far this year.

"I thought we had cracked this problem three years ago," said Mr Narey. "We have poured money into the problem to create 'safer cells', we have trained many more officers in suicide prevention and we have had tremendous support from the Samaritans but the number of deaths continues to climb," he said.

The commissioner for corrections said that new forecasts for the prison population were being drawn up and despite the recent surges the jail numbers were actually rising about 1,000 below their previous official projection.

"We are just waiting for the new projections to be worked on at the moment. There is every sign that the population will reach in the region of 80,000 by about 2005-6. He said that the "operational capacity" of the system was due to rise to 81,000 by March 2006 but admitted that included a built-in overcrowding factor. The uncrowded capacity of prisons in England and Wales would be just 70,000 by that date, he said.

He said he hoped an expansion of the early release electronic tagging scheme would mean that daily prison numbers would fall by 1,000 over the next three months.

Police cells might have to be used in the hard-pressed north-west where it was impossible to move prisoners around but he did not expect that they would be used on a national scale before the autumn.

Despite the bad news on suicides and overcrowding, performance on a number of targets was "hugely impressive", particularly in exceeding education and basic skills targets, the prison service report said. Eight out of 15 targets were met by the service, which cost taxpayers £2bn during the year. However, it recorded 11.7% positive drug tests versus a target of 10%, suicides rose markedly, and purposeful activity was below target. The average staff sickness rate was nearly 6% above a 9% target.

Targets on completing sex offender treatment programmes and reducing assaults were narrowly missed, as was the cost per prisoner place £10 below the target of £38,743 a year.

By The Guardian July 16, 2003

Ed: How is it that a prison inflicted suicide is described above, as a self inflicted death? Just plain rubbish. And once electronic tagging is common place it will be used on the wider community, alleged to be in the communities best interest, or forced on other categories of people, perhaps starting with the mentally ill say, if they want their medication?


My Sarah was smart and talented - Why did she die in jail?
LONDON: Sarah Campbell was just 18 when she killed herself [? committed suicide,] one of seven women to die in jail this year. Our correspondent asks why so many women kill themselves in prison [? commit suicide in prison.]

Most women [people] 'should not be jailed'
The Howard League for Penal Reform said jail should be reserved for women who commit serious or violent offences and remain a danger to the public.

Children of Imprisoned Mothers
United Nations lobbying body reports on women in prison and their children. I thought that two recent publications from the Quaker group that lobbies the UN might be of interest to you.

Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO)
On-line Resources on Women in Prison

Prison System Fails Women, Study Says
State policies designed for violent men make female offenders' rehabilitation difficult, an oversight panel finds. "If we fail to intervene effectively in the lives of these women and their children now, California will pay the cost for generations to come," said Commissioner Teddie Ray, chairwoman of the subcommittee that produced the report.

Prison suicides soar as jails hire 'babysitters'
UK: Prison officers are being taken off suicide watch and replaced by unqualified 'babysitters' because the system is overwhelmed by an epidemic of self-harm.

Report slams 'unjust' jailing of women on remand
UK: Six out of 10 women sent to jail while they await trial are acquitted or given a non-custodial sentence, a report published today reveals. Introducing the report, Lady Kennedy QC calls for a complete review of the use of remand and bail for women saying it is "inhumane and unjust".

Concern as UK prison suicides hit record level
UK: More prisoners took their own lives in English jails in August than in any other month since records began, prison reformers said today.

End of years of despair as Holloway closes its doors
But now Holloway prison in north London - where Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed in Britain, was hanged in 1955 - has been earmarked for closure, along with several other women's prisons, which have been hit by a spate of suicides.

How detox and self-help brought suicide jail back from the brink
UK: Six suicides in 12 months made Styal jail notorious and the Prisons Ombudsman criticised the prison and its staff for serious failures. But things are changing.

Parents on the inside leave children on the edge
Life in jail is an ordeal but it's a much harsher sentence for the child of a prisoner, writes Paola Totaro. 30 July 03.

2nd Renaissance -36 Let The Girls Go! [263]
During 2003 an Australian woman, Kathleen Folbigg, was sentenced to 40 years in prison, with a non-parole period of 30 years. Her crime, which she continues to deny, was to consecutively smother her four children when they were aged between 8 and 19 months. She was largely convicted on the basis of entries in her private diary, although these did not specifically refer to her having killed her two sons and two daughters; only that she was her father's daughter. Her lawyers are appealing her conviction.