Friday, September 01, 2006

Man's inhumanity to woman

Had a letter today from the mother of an 18-year old waman who died at Styal Prison in 2003 after taking an overdose, though she was on suicide watch. Staff didn't call medical attention in time, and the inquest found that she had died as a result of a series of failures of the duty of care. When the young woman, S, swallowed an overdose of prescription tablets, it was a clear 'cry for help' yet S was one of six women who died within a few months at Styal. The Chief Inspector or Prisons made nyumerous recommendations, not all of which had been implemented by the end of 2005. But even if the Prison Service had acted promptly and effectively on this report of the Chief Inspector, it wouldn't solve the underlying problem, that it would be impossible for the staff to carry out their duties effectively and humanely with 80,000 people in the system., half of them mentally ill or drug and alcohol abusers. S had psychiatric problems and had been a drug abuser, though at the time of her death it was said that she had been clear for 8 months. Prison is utterly the wrong environment for a vulnerable young woman with these problems, but the Home Office doesn't have any programme for more residential places where they could be given proper treatment. Probably that would be very expensive, but the courts will go on sending them to prison repeatedly if there is no alternative. In the long run this will be even more costly - and inhumane.

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