Ministry of Justice figures show that, last year, there were 371 deaths in prison custody in England and Wales. This is the highest number ever recorded.
It is frequently overlooked that, more often than not, those in prison were victims of profound disadvantage at some point in their lives. Statistics support the notion that issues such as homelessness, addiction, mental illness, abuse, poverty and inequality are particularly likely to have impacted upon prisoners. Evidently, prison deaths disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged and vulnerable within our society and are most pronounced across the intersections of race, gender, disability and class.
Notably, in 2021, the government illustrated its plan for a large-scale prison building scheme in England and Wales – the biggest in over 100 years. It is expected that this agenda will raise England and Wales’ prison population to almost 100,000 by 2026. This programme is concurrent with the increasing prevalence of punitivism and it has been reported that Britain now has the highest imprisonment rate in Western Europe.
In addition to the fact that historical disadvantage is prevalent among prisoners, the prison environment itself has the potential to worsen the vulnerability of its occupants to violence and premature death. Inquests often uncover concerns such as poor standards of mental and physical healthcare, ignorance of risk warnings, failure to implement suicide prevention strategies and segregation – as well as countless other issues which underlie deaths in prison.
While a multitude of reports and inquiries have formulated recommendations aimed at reducing the statistics concerning prison deaths, little has been actioned.
It is clear that, while prisons are designed to protect the public from harm, the rise in prison deaths is an indisputable mark of the intrinsic concerns within the system itself.
Where a death occurs in police or prison custody, an inquest will be required by law. Through inquests, bereaved families of deceased prisoners can pose questions surrounding the death, often bringing about valuable learning opportunities from the death of their loved one and, subsequently, meaningful change.
The inquest team at Farleys has a wealth of experience in assisting the families of those who have died in prison and an awareness that uncertainty surrounding the circumstances of the death of a loved one can be particularly distressing.
If your loved one has passed away while in prison or police custody, our solicitors will do all they can to offer you advice and support throughout the process. Call us on 0845 287 0939 or send your enquiry through our online form.