Mothers of young offenders call for action on prison suicides

By agency reporter
May 9, 2016

The families of three young men who died in Glen Parva prison have called  for more action to prevent suicides as Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons published its latest inspection report on the jail.

The grieving mothers of Greg Revell, Liam Lambert and Jake Foxall joined the Howard League for Penal Reform in demanding major reform of the failing prison system in England and Wales.

ITheir demand came less than a week after Ministry of Justice figures showed that the number of men and women who have taken their own lives in prison has almost doubled in three years.

The Howard League is aware of the deaths of eight young men in Glen Parva prison, which holds 18- to 21-year-olds, since 2011. All eight are believed to have taken their own lives. One of them died in hospital while the inspectors were visiting the prison last November.

The Howard League and another charity, Centre for Mental Health, are working together on a joint programme on preventing people from dying by suicide in prison.

Karen Revell, whose 18-year-old son Greg died while on remand in Glen Parva in June 2014, said: “Greg was a much-loved boy. Over 500 people attended his funeral, including teachers from his school.

“His death has left a hole in all of our hearts and we want to stop any other families from having to go through this living hell.

“My son should still be alive. Still, to this day, I feel exactly the same as I did when I was told that he had died. It never gets better. I have been ripped to pieces, and I am just lost without him.

“Deaths by suicide are still happening in Glen Parva and nothing is being done about it. Whole families are being totally destroyed.”

Terri Batcheldor, whose 20-year-old son Liam Lambert died in March 2015, said: “More than a year has passed since Liam died, but I am still waiting for his inquest, which should investigate what happened in Glen Parva prison. I did not want what happened to Liam to happen to anyone else, but it has and I believe it will again.”

Liam’s grandfather, Tim Marshall, said: “It would appear on the surface that there is no, or very little, duty of care exercised in this prison system.”

Mary Foxall, whose 19-year-old son Jake died in Glen Parva in November 2015, said: "To lose a teenage son is every parent's worst nightmare. No mother should have to go through what I am going through.

"Jake's inquest is due to be heard in September, and I hope that it will help to stop more tragedies happening in prison in the future."

Glen Parva was the subject of a terrible inspection report in August 2014. When inspectors returned to the prison in November last year, they found it was “a safer prison but not safe enough”.

Today’s report indicates that levels of violence were high and rising. In the six months prior to the inspection there had been 168 assaults on prisoners, of which 42 were serious, and 117 fights. There had been 32 assaults on staff, four of which were serious.

A quarter of prisoners said that they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection, and more than half said that they had felt unsafe at some point. Forty-two per cent of those surveyed said that they felt victimised by other prisoners.

Self-harm had increased – there were 309 incidents in the six months prior to the inspection – and uses of force and segregation were higher than in similar prisons.

Inspectors found that more than a quarter of young men were locked in their cells during the working day. Fully employed prisoners could have about eight hours a day out of their cell, but unemployed men had as little as one hour.

Some cells remained in poor condition and far too many were overcrowded. Most cells designed for one prisoners were in fact holding two. However, inspectors found that Glen Parva was a “well-led prison” and that relationships between staff and prisoners were very good.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The death toll in prisons is a national scandal and demands immediate action. The visceral pain of the families of the dead calls out to political leaders to put a stop to this. We cannot wait for grand plans, we need action today."

She concluded: "The only way to protect people is to reduce the unnecessary use of prison and then to make sure resources are allocated for people who really need custody.”

* Read the inspection report on Glen Parva here

* Howard League for Penal Reform http://www.howardleague.org/

* Centre for Mental Health http://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/

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