Self Inflicted Deaths Of 18-24 Years In Custody- Report Finds Prisons Are Failing Young People

A report into 80 cases of suicide in young people between the ages of 18-24 since 2007 shows that there’s a link between bullying and suicide.

The report revealed that a fifth of 18-24 year olds experienced bullying in the month before their death, while assessing records of their time in incarceration to decipher what lessons could be learned to protect vulnerable young people in custody.

The report published by the Prisons and Probations ombudsman also criticised prisons for not carrying out risk assessments and monitoring of persons with mental illness properly adding that this was contributing to the problem.

“There was also a prevalence of  young adults exhibiting challenging behaviour: being abusive and\or violent towards both prisoners and staff, getting into fights, ignoring instructions, together with lower level misbehaviour, such as misusing cell bells,” which the report blames for the sometimes heavy-handed punishments handed down to prisoners by prison officials.

Prison Officers were accused of putting young people already at risk in a further vulnerable position by isolating them from other prisoners, taking away television and other incentives that could prevent suicidal thoughts whenever they exhibited challenging behaviour.

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST,  a charity providing free advice to people bereaved by a death in custody said the system was failing many troubled and vulnerable members of the society.

“‘This report makes for depressingly familiar reading,” she said.

“In our work with bereaved families we see inquest after inquest raising the same issues and despite promises of change the deaths continue.”

Coles also revealed that there have been “133 deaths of young people aged 18-24 in the last ten years, including 11 so far this year.”

‘Today’s report is yet more evidence of the fatal consequences of placing vulnerable young people in bleak and unsafe institutions ill-equipped to deal with their complex needs,” said Coles. 

According to the report, the number of foreign nationals in Britain’s prisons has doubled in the last decade to 14% of the entire prison population.

20% of the young people in the report were also said to be of foreign nationality with a main trigger for self harm being the potential of being deported back to their country of origin.

Although, the young people in the report were fluent in English to a comfortable level, the report suggests that the language used by the Home Office in communicating with inmates was too “formal and bureaucratic” without any provision for interpretation or explanation of their right to appeal the decision.

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