11 October 2018

The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO), who investigate deaths in prison, probation and immigration detention, have today released their annual report. They report grave concerns about prison conditions, and found prisoners continue to die preventable deaths. 

On 316 deaths in the period, the PPO made 857 recommendations. The majority were on healthcare provision (189), emergency response (114) and suicide and self-harm prevention (109).  Elizabeth Moody, the acting PPO said, “A key concern is that we have been identifying the same lessons and making the same recommendations for many years – and we are still doing so.”

Despite growth in demand for the services of the PPO, they report continued cuts to their budgets and note “the resource pressures have become increasingly difficult to sustain.” Through casework at INQUEST, we have seen the damaging effects of those pressures.

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said: “Preventable deaths in prison continue and are still at historically high levels. Many occur because of failures in treatment and care. The same recommendations on systemic failings are repeated by the PPO with dismal regularity. The systematic disregard of potentially lifesaving recommendations demonstrates a lamentable complacency at all levels of the prison and health service.

What is needed is far greater accountability following deaths, with statutory enforcement, national oversight and monitoring of actions taken. However, to sustainably improve safety and stop these deaths would require a dramatic reduction in the prison population and investment in diversion and community alternatives.

As part of our human rights obligations under the Right to Life, deaths in prison must receive adequate scrutiny. INQUEST has ongoing concerns that the PPO is under staffed, under resourced and under strain. The worsening reductions in the PPO’s capacity will lead to deaths not receiving sufficient attention and cannot continue.”



For further information and interview requests please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or here.