Inquest into prison death to explore withdrawal regime and medical care

By agency reporter
May 16, 2018

Natasha Chin is described by her family as a lovely person who loved making people laugh. She was 39 years old when she was found unresponsive in her cell in Sodexo run HMP Bronzefield, on 19 July 2016. The inquest into her death opens on Wednesday 16 May 2018.

She had been recalled to prison for missing probation appointments and not residing in the accommodation approved by probation. She had alcohol and drug dependencies, a history of depression and poor physical health including asthma and epilepsy. She had been in prison for only 36 hours before she died.

Natasha Chin, a black woman from Islington, became unwell after entering the prison and was noted as suffering from withdrawal. The next day her condition deteriorated. She was vomiting excessively and was reported to be perspiring, out of breath and unsteady on her feet. She rang her cell bell during the evening but this went unanswered due, it would seem, to a problem with the cell bell system. This problem appears to have been known by some, but not all staff. It was not known to the night time officer in charge of Natasha’s wing that night. Around three and a half hours after she rang her cell bell, a prison officer and a nurse who entered her cell to deliver her medication found her unresponsive and she could not be saved.

Natasha Chin's family hope the inquest will address the following issues:

  • The cause of her death.
  • The extent to which the prison’s response to her withdrawal symptoms and ill health contributed to her death.
  • Communication failures between staff.
  • The failure of the cell bell system.
  • Whether earlier intervention could have saved her life.

Marsha Chin, Natasha’s sister said: “I hope the inquest will thoroughly examine the circumstances of Natasha's death to help us as a family understand why she died, and whether anything could have been done to prevent her death.”
 
Deborah Coles, Executive Director of INQUEST said: “The vulnerability of women in prison is well documented and they are owed a duty of care. There have been previous concerns raised by coroners and investigation bodies around the treatment of drug dependency in this private prison. This inquest must offer proper scrutiny into the circumstances surrounding Natasha’s death and how she came to die within 36 hours of entering the prison".

* INQUEST https://www.inquest.org.uk/

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