IPRT has long campaigned for an independent Prisoner Ombudsman. In England and Wales, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) is appointed by and reports directly to the Secretary of State for Justice. Importantly, it remains operationally independent. The PPO has three main investigative duties: complaints made by prisoners; deaths of prisoners and using the PPO’s discretionary powers in the investigation of deaths of recently released prisoners or detainees. The PPO has recently published its 2014-15 Annual report and the report highlights some causes for concern within the UK prison system.
According to the report, longer sentences and more late in life prosecutions for historic sex offences has resulted in an increased ageing prisoner population. Consequently, this “ageing prisoner profile – and rising numbers of associated natural cause deaths – will become an ever more typical feature of our prison system.” The report highlights the need for: improved health and social care for infirm prisoners; the obligation to adjust accommodation and regimes to the requirements of the retired and immobile; the demand for more dedicated palliative care suites for those reaching the end of their lives; and the call for better training and support for staff who must now routinely manage death itself. Notably, the report states that “the number of self-inflicted deaths in custody remains unacceptably high”. There was in total 76 self-inflicted deaths in 2014-15. Of note also was the fact that the total number of complaints made by prisoners increased slightly to 4,964, a 2% increase on the previous year. Perhaps of greatest concern was the 23% increase in complaints about “staff behaviour, including allegations of assault and bullying”
To read the full report: click here