24 January 2020 

INQUEST published a new report on the deaths of people in prison this week. 

The evidence presented in Deaths in prison: a national scandal, is gathered from our casework and monitoring of inquests, providing a unique insight into the harms and dangers of imprisonment.

Containing case studies and original analysis of jury findings and coroners’ reports, it reveals the repeated and systemic failings documented at inquests across a two-year period.

Human stories 

Our report tells the harrowing human stories behind the statistics. The evidence is gathered from our casework with bereaved families and our monitoring of inquests.

Three families spoke to the Guardian about their loved ones that died in prison and the failings uncovered at the inquest.

Kelvin Speakman died at HMP Hewell after repeated self harm and suicide attempts. He was on an IPP sentence nine years over tariff. His family told the Guardian“If we had known, we could have at least tried to talk him through his hard times. Instead, he died without help from us, or the system.”

Sandra Landsberg, sister of Annabella Landsberg who died in HMP Peterborough after being restrained and left on the cell floor was quoted in the Guardian“When I saw the state she was in and later learned of how she had been treated, it was heartbreaking. The staff failed in their professional duty of care: no one deserves treatment like that.”

Lisa Smith, former partner of Tyrone Givans who died in Pentonville in 2018 and mother to his daughter, said to the Guardian“Putting him in prison without hearing aids was like putting him in a hole in the ground.” “Now he cannot see his child grow up" said his mother Angela.

Failure to enact change

The report exposes dangerous, longstanding failures across the prison estate and historically high levels of deaths. The lack of government action on official recommendations is leading to preventable deaths.

If previous recommendations had been acted on, maybe our son would be here now. - Donna and Mark Saunders, the parents of Dean Saunders.

INQUEST director Deborah Coles was joined by Donna and Mark, the parents of Dean Saunders who died in prison in 2016 and Sandra, the sister of Annabella Landsberg on Victoria Derbyshire on BBC 2 to discuss the findings of the report.  

INQUEST director Deborah Coles and the families of Dean Saunders and Annabella Landsberg stressed the frustration of recommendations not being enacted on Victoria Derbyshire.

Time and time again we see the same failings being repeated. We are told that action will be taken. Yet consistently, recommendations from coroners inquests, ombudsman investigations, and the prison inspectorate are being systematically ignored. - Deborah Coles, Director INQUEST

Life saving recommendations

The report sets out INQUEST's evidence based recommendations to improve safety and prevent future deaths including:

  • a new national oversight mechanism, to monitor and enforce the implementation of recommendations from investigations, inquests and inquiries on state related deaths,
  • significantly reducing the prison population,
  • reallocating resources from criminal justice to community-based health and welfare services.

Download the report to read the recommendations in full.

In the news:

GuardianHigh number of prison deaths are preventable, says damning new report 

The Independent: Ministers failing to respond to 'national scandal' of suicides in prison, report finds

Victoria Derbyshire, featuring Deborah Coles and families Sandra Landsberg and Mark and Donna Saunders

Channel 5 News With Leanne Blakely, partner of Anthony Solomon and Deborah Coles

Russia Today With Sharon Whitford, mother of Marc Maltby and Rebecca Roberts

Sky News:Six prisoners die behind bars every week, new report claims

    The Times: Tories seek to make the punishment fit the crime 

    The Justice Gap: Failure to prevent deaths in prison is ‘a national scandal’, says INQUEST

    Socialist Worker: Prison deaths and self-harm revealed in new report

    Sputnik news: UK prisons minister accused of ‘hollow words’ after latest report on deaths and self-harm 

    Channel news asia: Charity brands number of UK prison deaths ‘national scandal’

    Daily Sabah: Concerns grow over rising death toll in British jails

    The Voice: ‘National scandal’ of deaths in prison highlighted by new research

    The London Economic: Revealed: repeated government failures lead to historically high deaths in custody in ‘national scandal’

    Press Association: Six prisoners die behind bars each week, campaigners claim

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