A family who were wrongly informed their son had killed himself inprisonhas received an apology from the Government – but G4S, whose staff allegedly made the call, have said it never happened.
MPs heard the HMP Birmingham inmate’s relatives received a call earlier this month in which they were told he had taken his own life.
HMP Birmingham is operated by G4S.
But 30 minutes later they were told he was still alive, according to Labour’s Stephen Doughty.
The Cardiff South and Penarth MP called for an investigation into the error, also noting his constituent has endured a “lengthy bureaucratic process” in efforts to transfer him to a secure mental health unit.
Prisons Minister Andrew Selous apologised to the family concerned and agreed to discuss the inmate’s case further.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Doughty said: “I share the concerns of many honourable members about the situation involving prisoners with mental health issues and the risks they pose not only to themselves but also to others and indeed are faced by them in prisons, and the concerns that the staffing cuts are having on that.
“I’ve been in correspondence with the minister about a specific constituent of mine, who has endured a lengthy bureaucratic process about potential transfer to a secure mental health unit that would be more adequate for his needs.
“But also I’m sorry to say that his family had a call this month telling them that he had killed himself, only to be told half an hour later that he hadn’t.
“That’s an extraordinary situation, and I think I’d like to see the minister investigating that fully and also to be looking very closely at the case that has been made for him to be transferred away from HMP Birmingham, where he’s currently being held.”
Mr Selous replied: “I’d certainly like to apologise to the family through you for being given terrible news like that that clearly wasn’t true, and if you’d like to write to me again – or indeed even come and see me – about that particular issue, I’d be more than happy to further discuss it with you.”
However, following publication of the story on www.converseprisonnews.com we have been contacted by G4S who said the story was “incorrect”.
A G4S spokesman said: “It is something that was said in Parliament, but our investigations have shown that we didn’t call the prisoner’s family to tell them that the prisoner had died.
“We have checked phone records to that effect.
“In fact, we never call prisoner’s families to inform them of a death in custody, but instead we meet them in person.
“So we’re confident that any phone call referenced didn’t come from our prison.”
The provision of work, training and education had improved at HMP Woodhill and its rehabilitation services were good, but violence and a high number of self-inflicted deaths were significant concerns, said Martin Lomas, Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the jail near Milton Keynes.
HMP Woodhill is as a core local prison, meaning while the bulk of its population is a mixture of remanded and short-sentenced men with the mental health, substance misuse and other issues typical of local prisons, it also has a high security function for a small number of category A prisoners. The prison also has a Close Supervision Centre (CSC), part of a national system for managing some of the most high-risk prisoners in the system, which is inspected separately. Previous inspections of HMP Woodhill have repeatedly raised concerns about the prison and, in particular, weaknesses in the support of men at risk of suicide or self-harm and the poor provision of work, training and education. This inspection found real improvements had been made but more still needed to be done to reduce the likelihood of further self-inflicted deaths. There had been five more self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection, making nine since 2012. This was an unacceptable toll.
Inspectors were concerned to find that:
early days in custody are a critical time and five of the nine deaths since 2012 had involved new arrivals who had been in the prison for less than two weeks;
reception processes were efficient but the role of the first night centre was undermined because it was also used to hold prisoners difficult to locate elsewhere;
some prisoners requiring opiate substitution treatment or alcohol detoxification were mistakenly placed in the first night centre rather than the specialist stabilisation unit, which was particularly dangerous for prisoners requiring alcohol detoxification;
too many first night cells were dirty and poorly equipped;
recommendations by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman following previous deaths in custody had not been implemented with sufficient rigour;
there were not enough Listeners (prisoners trained by the Samaritans to provide confidential emotional support to prisoners);
mental health services had been hit by staff shortages and only 18% of residential staff had received mental health awareness training in the past three years; and
although the prison felt calm, a sizeable minority (one in five prisoners) said they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection and levels of violence were higher than elsewhere and included some serious assaults on prisoners and staff.
However, inspectors were pleased to find that:
impressive progress had been made in the provision of work, training and education, and the provision of activity for short-term prisoners was an example other local prisons could follow;
the quality of teaching and learning had improved and there was good emphasis on helping prisoners to improve their literacy and numeracy;
activities were intelligently geared to the labour markets in areas to which most prisoners would be returning;
the support given to prisoners at risk of suicide and self-harm was often better than the records showed and those prisoners subject to ACCT monitoring told inspectors they felt well cared for;
security arrangements were generally appropriate for the population;
drug availability was lower than elsewhere, although the prison needed to be alert to the increasing availability of Spice;
the environment in the segregation unit had improved and staff worked well with some very complex prisoners;
there had been good progress in reducing the backlogs in risk assessments and sentence planning and public protection arrangements were good; and
despite the complexity of new arrangements, including two new community rehabilitation companies working in the prison, most practical resettlement services were good.
Martin Lomas said:
“HMP Woodhill is an improving prison and its very good purposeful activity and good rehabilitation services are better than we have seen recently in many other local prisons. Good outcomes in these areas help to create a sense of purpose and hope and reduce frustration and tension. Despite this, levels of violence are a significant concern and the number of self-inflicted deaths in recent years has been unacceptably high. The main priority of the prison must be to tackle these two areas.”
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, said:
“As the Chief Inspector says, Woodhill has made impressive progress in providing work, education, training and support to help prisoners turn their lives around.
“Given the significant operational pressures the prison has faced this is an excellent achievement.
“Tackling increased levels of violence and preventing suicides is the top priority for the Governor and for the Prison Service as a whole. Tragically, as recent incidents at Woodhill have demonstrated, the challenge is considerable – but we will use the recommendations in this report to further develop and improve our approach.”
Sheldon Woodford was found hanging in his cell in HMP Winchester on 9 March 2015 and was pronounced dead at hospital on 12 March 2015.
After a two-week inquest, the jury has returned a highly critical narrative conclusion finding that lack of staff, training and consistent care across the prison and healthcare led to a failure to spot obvious and escalating patterns of risk regarding Sheldon’s self-harm.
Despite the self-harm warnings accompanying Sheldon’s arrival at the prison, neither the reception officer nor the first nurse who assessed Sheldon, placed him under suicide and self harm management programme in part due to the fact that vital information was not properly shared or made available. His risk of self harm and suicide was not formally assessed until ten days later, after Sheldon had cut his wrists.
The level of observations Sheldon was monitored under did not always always reflect his risk of self-harm – including staff only being required to check Sheldon twice an hour when he returned to prison after a serious suicide attempt. Meetings in relation to his risk of self harm were often not multidisciplinary and the prison staff did not receive adequate training to identify and manage his risk of self harm.
At Sheldon’s final case review, held three days after he returned from intensive care having attempted to hang himself (and five days before he placed a ligature round his neck for the second, fatal time), Sheldon’s risk was graded as “low”. This was despite the fact that the hospital who had discharged Sheldon had described him as “high risk”, a prison GP considered his risk to stem from his “impulsive” and “unpredictable” behavior, and the prison psychiatrist, told the inquest that the “low” grading was incorrect and inappropriate.
The jury retuning a highly critical narrative conclusion, found that the failure to identify Sheldon’s escalating levels of risk of self harm, insufficient levels of prison and healthcare staffing, inadequate training on how to assess and manage risks of self harm contributed to Sheldon’s death. They also identified unstructured application of the suicide and self harm management programme resulting inadequate integration between prison and healthcare as a contributory factor in his death.
The Coroner indicated that she will be making recommendations to prevent future deaths in relation to training of prison staff and officers in suicide and self harm management and also in relation to the sharing of information.
Sheldon Woodford’s partner Alex said:
“We always believed that Sheldon was badly let down by the system at HMP Winchester and we are pleased that the jury found that this was the case.To have had to visit him once in an induced coma after a hanging attempt was bad enough, but we had hoped that the prison would learn from the risks that Sheldon was clearly presenting and provide him with the care and support he needed.To have to return again to an intensive care unit less than two weeks later, and to have to make the horrendous decision to turn off his life support machine, was devastating and broke our hearts.
We hope that the jury’s highly critical findings and the coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths Report will mean that eventually other families will not have to go through this. We also hope that the government will consider the failures in staffing levels and training which contributed to Sheldon’s death before making any further cuts to the prison system”
Alex Tasker’s solicitor Karen Rogers said:
“The failure to properly implement ACCT procedures in this case was shocking. The evidence showed there was far too much reliance on prisoners’ self-report, and insufficient attention paid to obvious and escalating risks of self-harm.”
Deborah Coles : Director of INQUEST said :
“Sheldon’s risk of suicide should have been obvious to anyone who was responsible to keep him safe. That the jury found such fundamental failings in care, training and staffing levels sends a clear warning to Government about the crisis in prisons. There have been 3 further self inflicted deaths in HMP Winchester. The Prisons Minister must account to Sheldon’s family as to what action is to be taken in response to the serious failings identified.”
A mentally ill prisoner has admitted battering his cell mate over the head with a television set as he awaited trial for a random attack on a walker at popular beauty spot.
In June 2014, Taras Nykolyn, 46, pounced on Roger Maxwell as he took an early morning stroll near the Windmill landmark on Wimbledon Common in south-west London.
He forced the victim to the ground, smashing his face and breaking his wrist.
Then, while he was on remand at Wandsworth prison, Nykolyn killed Wadid Barsoum by hitting him with a TV, punching and stabbing him in their cell.
Ukrainian Nykolyn, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to both attacks at the Old Bailey with the help of an interpreter.
He admitted inflicting grievous bodily harm to Mr Maxwell on June 19 2014 and the manslaughter of Mr Barsoum on May 4 last year.
Alternative charges of grievous bodily harm with intent and murder were ordered to lie on file by the Recorder of London, Nicholas Hilliard QC, after hearing the defendant was suffering from mental illness at the time.
Prosecutor Simon Denison QC said: “Two psychiatric reports concluded that the defendant suffers from an abnormality of mental function, namely paranoid psychosis.
“They are satisfied that at the time of the killing of Mr Barsoum his responsibility was diminished.”
Although there was a possible defence of insanity to the attack on Mr Maxwell, the Crown was satisfied it was dealt with appropriately with the plea to a lesser charge.
Diana Ellis QC, defending, told the court that Nykolyn had been moved to HMP Belmarsh since the killing.
Then in November last year, he was transferred to Broadmoor secure hospital for an assessment before being sent back to the top security jail.
As the requirements have not been met for a hospital order, the defendant faces a jail sentence, the court heard.
Sentencing was adjourned to Friday, January 22.
HMP Wandsworth was built in 1851 and is now the largest prison in the UK, holding 1,877 inmates
Alongside HMP Liverpool, which is of similar size, the category B jail is one of the largest prisons in Western Europe.
The spot where Mr Maxwell was attacked is not far from where young mother Rachel Nickell was stabbed to death by schizophrenic Robert Napper on July 15 1992
In 2008, Napper pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility bringing to an end the inquiry into one of the most notorious killings in modern British criminal history.
The author of a report into prison suicides has raised concern about the Government’s failure to take action on recommendations he published earlier this year.
Labour peer Lord Harris of Haringey said he suspected an official response to his review was being held up by a “rearguard action” from figures within the Prison Service resisting change.
The review of self-inflicted deaths among prisoners aged 18-24 in England and Wales recommended new responsibilities for prison officers to take a direct interest in the progress of individual inmates, as well as early intervention to reduce numbers of young people being put behind bars.
Lord Harris told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that since he reported in July there had been “complete silence” on the part of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) on how its thinking was developing.
He complained that his planned appearance before a ministerial board on deaths in custody was cancelled at short notice last week and that he was told it was “not worth it” for him to meet Justice Secretary Michael Gove at this point.
He said Mr Gove had made “quite positive” hints about efforts to rehabilitate prisoners, but added: “What concerns me is that there is complete silence as to the way their thinking is developing.
“I just think there’s a lack of concern. I suspect there’s a rearguard action from the Prison Service, who find some of our findings really rather worrying, because it recognises that they simply don’t know what’s going on in prisons and that prisons at the moment are under enormous stress and presumably will get more so with the cuts that are just around the corner.”
Lord Harris said he did not believe his report had been “shelved” but added: “My concern is that we’ve already had 12 young people take their lives in prison so far this year, in just nine months. The number of suicides across the board has risen really quite dramatically in the last year or so, so action needs to be taken.
“Every month that we don’t take action we are wasting countless millions of having people in the prison system who don’t need to be there, failing to rehabilitate those who can be rehabilitated and, what’s more, lives are at risk.”
The report found that there was a group of young people in prisons who could have been kept outside if measures had been taken to help them deal with mental health conditions and other problems in their lives, he said.
Lord Harris said: “I’ve met with Michael Gove shortly before the report was published. He listened intently, took notes and nodded repeatedly while I spoke to him. I’ve suggested that another meeting now would be helpful, given that his thinking will have developed over the summer, and I was told it really wasn’t worth it until thinking was further developed.
“I suspect that there are people in the Prison Service who think they’d rather be allowed to just get on with it. But getting on with it means the same things keep happening again and again. These cases over the last 10-12 years you see the same patterns repeating. People who call for help not being helped, people who shouldn’t have been there in the first place, or people where some simple sensible care could have been provided.”
The MoJ told Today that Lord Harris’s recommendations were under consideration and it remained the department’s intention to respond in the autumn.
A fire has destroyed a dormitory at a maximum-security prison in the central Philippines, killing 10 inmates, officials said.
The blaze was the second in two years to hit Leyte Regional Prison in Leyte province, Bureau of Corrections spokesman Roberto Olaguer said.
He added that the fire may have been caused by faulty wiring in the building that was constructed after the earlier fire in 2013.
“This was a maximum-security building and it was padlocked. So maybe when the fire happened suddenly, it may not have been unlocked immediately,” Mr Olaguer said, adding he had no other details and that a senior prison official from Manila was on the way to Leyte to investigate.
Philippine prisons are notoriously overcrowded and have poor facilities. The Bureau of Corrections said the prison has a capacity of 500 inmates but housed 1,895 before the fire, including 1,256 in the maximum-security building.
On its website, the bureau said the prison’s facilities were “often below par” compared with other prisons.
Mr Olaguer said inmates displaced by the fire will be housed in a minimum-security compound.
The 42-year-old prison was also damaged in November 2013 by Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms on record to hit the Philippines, he said.
A rapidly ageing prison population was largely behind the 15% increase in deaths of prisoners from natural causes in 2014-15. This has meant that prisons designed for fit young men must increasingly adjust to the roles of care home and even hospice, said Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Nigel Newcomen, as he published his annual report. He added that, while suicides reduced by 16%, the number remained unacceptably high.
The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) independently investigates the circumstances of each death in custody and identifies lessons that need to be learned to improve safety. In 2014-15:
there were 250 deaths in 2014-15, 11 (5%) more than the year before;
the PPO began 15% more investigations into deaths from natural causes (155 deaths), largely as a consequence of rising numbers of older prisoners;
the average age of those who died of natural causes was 58 compared to 37 for all other deaths;
there were 76 self-inflicted deaths, a welcome 16% decrease from the previous year, but high relative to recent years;
there were four apparent homicides, the same number as the previous year; and
a further seven deaths were classified as ‘other non-natural’ and eight await classification.
Nigel Newcomen said:
“It is remarkable that the fastest growing segment of the prison population is prisoners over 60 and the second fastest is prisoners over 50. Longer sentences and more late in life prosecutions for historic sex offences mean that this ageing prisoner profile – and rising numbers of associated natural cause deaths – will become an ever more typical feature of our prison system.”
“My investigations into deaths from natural causes have identified some lessons which have not previously been of such widespread importance. For example, the need for improved health and social care for infirm prisoners; the obligation to adjust accommodation and regimes to the requirements of the retired and immobile; the demand for more dedicated palliative care suites for those reaching the end of their lives; and the call for better training and support for staff who must now routinely manage death itself.”
On suicides, he said:
“The number of self-inflicted deaths in custody remains unacceptably high and, in 2014-15, there were still 38% more than in 2012-13. I am, therefore, pleased that the review of the Prison Service’s suicide and self-harm prevention (ACCT) procedures, which I called for in last year’s annual report, has begun. I am also pleased that Lord Harris’s important review of self-inflicted deaths among 18 to 24-year-olds in prison has been published. Together, these reviews should put suicide prevention in prisons centre stage and ensure that ACCT procedures – now over a decade old – are fit for purpose in a prison system with many more prisoners and fewer staff.”
The other principal part of the PPO’s remit is the independent investigation of complaints. In 2014-15, a substantial backlog of complaints was eradicated, and:
the total number of complaints received increased slightly to 4,964, a 2% increase on the previous year;
however, the number of cases accepted for investigation rose by 13%;
2,380 investigations were started, compared to 2,111 the year before;
overall, 2,159 investigations were completed, an 11% improvement compared to 2013-14;
39% of complaints were upheld, compared to 34% the previous year; and
the largest category of complaints was about lost, damaged and confiscated property, making up 28% of investigations.
Nigel Newcomen said:
“The types of complaint I am called upon to investigate vary year to year, although property complaints consistently predominate. Last year, there were more complaints about regime issues and transfers, which was predictable at a time of cutbacks and crowding. Perhaps of greatest concern was the 23% increase in complaints about staff behaviour, including allegations of assault and bullying.
“My staff have responded well to the increasing demands. Not only were almost all draft fatal incident reports on time (97%), we also eradicated a substantial historic backlog of complaints which has enabled a gradual improvement in complaint timeliness. These improvements have been achieved by changing the way we work, for example by being more proportionate and declining to investigate more minor complaints so we can focus on more serious cases and – of course – by the sheer hard work of my staff.
“There is much more to do, but we are well placed to deliver on our vision of supporting improvement in safety and fairness in prisons, immigration detention and probation, even at this particularly challenging time.”
The recommendations made as a result of PPO investigations are key to making improvements in safety and fairness in custody. The past year also saw the publication of a range of learning lessons publications which build on the analysis and recommendations in individual investigations to look thematically and more broadly at areas for improvement. Five of this year’s seven publications focused on self-inflicted deaths. Other publications explored learning from complaints about prisoners’ difficulties in maintaining family ties and why some groups of prisoners, such as women and children, rarely make complaints at all.
A copy of the report can be found on the PPO website. Visit www.ppo.gov.uk.
A prisoner who attacked a fellow inmate causing his death a week later has been jailed for four years.
Alastaire Scott, 23, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 28-year-old Frazer Stent at HMP Rochester and was jailed at Maidstone Crown Court.
The fatal attack took place in the Chilham Wing at the category Cprison on Sunday October 12, when inmates were allowed free movement on the wing.
Mr Stent had been part of a group of men involved in an altercation with a prisoner who was a close friend of Scott’s, Kent Police said.
He had been walking down a corridor, with Scott slightly behind him, and entered a cell where he spoke with two inmates inside.
While Scott remained outside the cell door, a few seconds later Mr Stent was pushed outside. With his attention focused on another inmate, Scott punched him to the right hand side of his head and he hit the ground with nothing breaking his fall.
Mr Stent was taken to Medway Maritime Hospital where a CT scan revealed bleeding on the brain. He was kept sedated throughout his time in hospital but his condition deteriorated and he died a week after being assaulted.
During interview Scott said he had carried out the attack because the victim had been involved in a confrontation with his friend but had not intended to kill him.
Detective Inspector Gavin Moss, senior investigating officer for the case, said: “Alastaire Scott’s decision to punch Frazer Stent was both reckless and stupid and the consequences could not be more tragic. Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the victim’s family.
“During interview Scott told officers he did not intend to kill his fellow inmate but that does not excuse his actions. He gave little thought to the consequences and the impact it would have on his victim, which in this tragic example could not have been worse.”