Prisons in the press – 16 September

Suicide prevention and prisoner rehabilitation top this week’s agenda

A ground breaking prosecution for musical inmates this week. Image: Global Panorama

Transfers of prisoners to mental health hospitals have increased by 20 per cent. Image: Global Panorama

Prisons in the press brings you the best articles from the past week to keep you up-to-date on prison news.

Hot off the press

Rise in prisoners moved to mental health hospitals. The Guardian reports transfers have increased by 20 per cent in England and Wales, amid concerns over increase in prison suicides and self-harm. In the same week our own Victoria Seabrook reported live from Cambridge University at a conference focused on understand and preventing suicide and self-harm in prison.


Revealed this week

  1. Prison officers watched as a 23-year-old inmate blinded himself. Maghaberry Prison staff “watched” as mentally ill Sean Lynch blinded himself. A report by Northern Ireland’s Prisoner Ombudsman has said the prisoner inflicted “extreme and shocking” self-harm over three days and guards failed to intervene. The BBC has more.
  2. Footage emerges claiming to show British prisoners beating a “Muslim rapist” behind bars. The Sun reports that the attackers repeatedly throw punches at the man as they tell him to “stop crying” and “to get up”. Warning: graphic images.
  3. Calls for tougher prison terms for police attackers. Peter Singleton, the chair of the Merseyside Police Federation has spoken out after a 30-year-old officer was stabbed in the back while trying to arrest a rape suspect. He described as “microscopic” some offenders’ jail terms, which he says, fail to deter would-be criminals. The BBC has more.
  4. Stoke Heath Prison visitors targeted by police. Roadside checks were carried out at Shropshire’s only prison, HMP Stoke Heath, near Market Drayton, with the aim of combating prison related drug offences. An arrest was made a vehicle was seized. The Shropshire Star has more.
  5. Developer “keen to get on with” transforming Shrewbury’s former Dana prison. The plans for the redevelopment of HMP Dana were put in at the start of the year, but are yet to be decided by Shropshire Council. The Shropshire Star has more.


Rehabilitation news  

  1. Prison Radio Association tops list as Charity of the Year. National Prison Radio Association won the Third Sector Awards this year and is the world’s first national radio station for prisoners, aiming to provide practical advice, support and inspirational content to prisoners. The Third Sector has the story.
  2. A prison project that aims to unlock the potential of inmates. From a privately run prison Miranda Green for the FT describes the pioneering project that sees the UK’s first prisoner-versus-prisoner debating competition. Beyond Bars, the rehabilitation experiment, was started by Pamela Dow, the civil servant who was former Justice Secretary Michael Gove’s, right hand. The FT has more.
  3. Norwich Prison’s work scheme leads to job offers. On the day of his release, Paul Sayer received two jobs offers. Mr Sayer, who was serving a 10 year sentence for conspiracy to supply drugs, took part in the Britannia Enterprise scheme that meant he helped renovate houses on day release from prison. The BBC has more.


In context

More prisoners are being diagnosed with mental health problems requiring hospital treatment, official figures obtained by the Guardian show.

The number of male prisoners being transferred to hospital under the 1983 Mental Health Act grew by more than 20 per cent between 2011 and 2014 in England and Wales, said the Ministry of Justice in response to a freedom of information request.

Campaigners have called for more people with mental health problems to be treated in hospital rather than sent to prison but there is concern that although the figures are up, the use of hospital orders – court orders that allow defendants to be sent for medical care instead of receiving a prison sentence – has decline more than 25 per cent since 2011 for men and remains at a similar level among women.

Read more from the Guardian here.

gonville caius college university of cambridge preventing suicide prison

Gonville and Caius College: Practitioners share strategies at Cambridge University to prevent suicide in prison. Photograph: Victoria Seabrook

This week also saw our own Victoria Seabrook attended Cambridge University’s Suicide Prevention Conference. A live blog of the event is available here and highlights include the discussion of:

  • Why suicide is such as acute problem for the UK prison population
  • Women are less at risk of suicide in the community
  • Why prisoners attempt suicide
  • The role of prison staff
  • The importance of monitoring mental health


In other news

Artists set free in Reading Prison. Oscar Wilde’s incarceration is at the heart of a new multi-disciplinary Artangel project. Readings of Wilde’s love letter De Profundis , which he wrote whilst in incarcerated in Reading Gaol from 1895 and 1897, are at the heart of Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison. The latest project by the non-profit Artangel hears actors read Wilde’s tormented missive in the old prison chapel. The FT has more. Readings until late October.


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