16 May 1997

The news of the death of 21 year old Shaun Heavey in Winchester Prison on the day of new Home Secretary Jack Straw’s visit and of another death of another 21 year old man in identical circumstances in Home House prison brings to 20 the number of prisoners who have taken their own lives in 1997, five of whom were 20 and under.

INQUEST, the organisation that works directly with the families of those who die in prison and has monitored prison deaths for over 16 years, said: “The grim toll of despair reflected in the unacceptably high number of prison deaths requires action to give suicide prevention and the health care of prisoners priority. Jack Straw must make policy changes to improve the impoverished regimes which are the legacy of Tory penal policy in which security and control took precedence over humanity. He must ensure the Prison Service can now implement their suicide prevention strategy in a political context where the emphasis is on rehabilitation and care. The new Home Secretary must make it a priority to address not just the fundamental failings highlighted by this death toll but the secretive and unaccountable system of investigation that allows so many prisoners to die in similar circumstances and lessons not to be learnt .”