INQUEST responds to HMIP report on Woodhill prison
15 March 2016
Today, Tuesday 15 March, the Prison Inspectorate has delivered a highly critical report of Woodhill prison. During the inspection period, there were nine reported self-inflicted deaths in HMP Woodhill since 2012, which the inspectorate referred to as an “unacceptable toll”. INQUEST knows of a further four self-inflicted deaths since this point. Moreover, there have been 14 self-inflicted deaths at HMP Woodhill since 2010, which is the highest number by comparison to any other prison across England and Wales.
Alarmingly, recommendations made by investigatory bodies, such as the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman and Prevention of Future Death reports made by the Coroner, have not been implemented to avoid other deaths.
Some of the failures identified in relation to the previous deaths include: poor measures for preventing suicide and self-harm, ineffective risk assessments, and inadequate support in the form of Listeners (prisoners trained by the Samaritans to provide confidential emotional support to fellow prisoners).
Deborah Coles, INQUEST Director said:
“INQUEST is working with a number of families whose relative has died in Woodhill prison. Despite highly critical inquest findings and recommendations calling for urgent change, the number of deaths continue to increase. It is extremely distressing for families whose relative has died at this prison to be confronted with news of yet another death with many identical failings. The HMIP findings expose a huge accountability gap in which Woodhill is allowed to fail those under its care time and again. The Prisons Minister must address these endemic problems, hold institutions responsible for refusing to learn lessons, and put a stop to the increasing number of deaths in prison.”
The HM Prison Inspectorate report of HMP Woodhilll can be found here.
There have been 14 self-inflicted deaths at HMP Woodhill since 2010 (the highest number by comparison to any other prison), five alone took place in 2015 and two so far in 2016. These deaths have occurred despite numerous critical findings at inquests and coroners recommending improvement to self harm prevention and identification measures.
INQUEST is working with a number of families whose relative has died in Woodhill prison. Many of the deaths are awaiting inquests. Concluded inquests, which INQUEST has been working on, include the deaths of:
- 44 year old Ian Brown, from Northampton who was found hanging in his cell in HMP Woodhill on 19 July 2015
- 32 year old Dwane Harper who was found hanging in his cell on the segregation unit at HMP Woodhill on 4 April 2014
- 30 year old Kevin Scarlett who was found hanging in his cell at HMP Woodhill on 22 May 2013.
‘You have clearly made yourselves a force to be reckoned with, a powerful instrument for good. In the process you have not only achieved real change in an aspect of our common life which would have commanded little attention or esteem were it not for your efforts, but you have at the same time offered enormous support to those bereaved people who long for a clear verdict on the death in custody of someone who means a great deal to them.’
– Dr Peter Selby, President of the National Council for Independent Monitoring Boards