New event calls for improvement to prison safety and investigations into prisoner deaths

Prison Corridor

Parliamentarians and journalists were among those who attended an event aiming to increase prison safety, prompted by recent research from the University of Nottingham. 

The research, led by Professor Philippa Tomczak in the School of Sociology, highlighted issues in prisoner safety, and recommended changes to investigations into prisoner deaths.

Every year, hundreds of prisoners die in England and Wales — in the 12 months to September 2022, there were 307 deaths in prison custody.

The research recommended that investigations into the deaths should name the systematic reasons behind the deaths, whether it be through too many prisoners or too few staff.

The event on October 24th saw academics and representatives from a number of organisations come together to highlight the findings of the report, including HM Prisons and Probation Service, the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody, Ministry of Justice, National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death, and the NHS.

More than 70 people attended the event, promoting discussion about how best to avoid deaths of prisoners in custody, and methods to reduce pain for loved ones affected.

Professor Philippa Tomczak said: “Reading these death investigations and hearing families’ words over and over again is simply devastating. The UK is the sixth richest national economy in the world. The British education system has one of the highest education standards in the world. We can do better than this. Hopefully this event and the research will kickstart more effective prisoner death investigations and improved prison safety.”

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon added: “Listening to the testimonies of those with a family member who had committed suicide in prison was powerful, devastating. It’s clear that action must be taken to prevent further suicides in prisons. Yesterday’s event was invaluable in raising awareness amongst those who could make a difference.”

Read the full report here