A report entitled “Changing Prisons, Saving Lives Report of the Independent Review into Self-inflicted Deaths in Custody of 18-24 year olds” published in July 2015 examines in detail the lives of 87 young people (four children and 83 young adults aged from 18 to 24) who died between April 2007 and December 2013 in the UK. The report reveals that many of these young people had chaotic lives and complex histories and some had been subject to child abuse, been exposed to violence or suffered high levels of bereavement. In many instances, these factors were further compounded by mental health issues, or by a lack of maturity, associated with the developmental stage in young adults where brain structures and coping strategies are still evolving.
Of grave concern is the finding that, according to the report, at present, interaction between the prison and families is inconsistent, often inadequate and sometimes inconsiderate. In addition, there is “stark evidence that vulnerable young adults are not getting access to the support and treatment they need”. Despite the prevalence of mental health issues in custody, the Review, was struck by how “poor information exchange appears to be”, and particular emphasis was placed on problems around the sharing of health and mental health information. The report concludes that “[m]uch more needs to be done to address these problems and to divert these young people from the criminal justice system at an earlier stage in their lives”. According to the report, “cross governmental input is needed to address the needs of troubled children and young adults and to ensure that problems are identified and effectively addressed at an early age”. Importantly, the report notes that “custody should be used as a last resort”.
To read the full report: click here