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Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Publishes Annual Report 2016-2017

13th July 2017

The Ombudsman’s report highlights the figures relating to fatal incidents occurring in the last year across the various places of detention and organisations that come under the remit of the Ombudsman’s office.

Key points relating to fatal incidents investigated by the Ombudsman:

The report outlines some of the necessary steps that need to be taken in relation to risk assessment, suggesting that the assessment (ACCT) should comprise of more than just the prisoner’s representation but also consist of professional evaluation. The consequence of not having a robust ACCT evaluation can result in inadequate service provision. Specific issues such as provisions for prisoners with mental health needs, drugs and the rise in the use of new psychoactive drugs, as well as the effects of segregation are outlined by the Ombudsman in relation to fatal incidents in places of detention.

  • Self-inflicted deaths rose by 11% last year which not as large an increase as the year before (34%) but was still, according to the Ombudsman, unacceptably high. There was a 19% increase in deaths from natural causes;
  • A major theme emerging from the Ombudsman’s investigations is the pervasiveness of Mental ill-health and an epidemic of new psychoactive drugs;
  • Suicide prevention procedures are badly in need of updating and streamlining;
  • There is rarely a fundamental lack of care on the behalf of prison officers found, when conducting death in custody reports. However, there are issues of management, lack of training, poor information sharing etc. in the investigations;
  • Prisons must adapt to the increasing older prisoner population as currently prison campuses are designed for the imprisonment of younger prisoners.

Key points relating to complaints investigated by the Ombudsman:

The Ombudsman also highlights issues arising through the complains system. The Ombudsman receives complaints from the various bodies that fall under the remit of his office such as prisons, emigration centres, children’s facilities and those on probation. Some of the key statistics coming out of the Ombudsman’s Annual Report in relation to complaints received shine a light on current prison practices and attitudes endemic within prison culture:

  • Complaints were received in relation to incentivised regimes, family visits, loss of employment privileges, segregation, classification of sentence, prisoner on prisoner violence;
  • 5% increase in complaints 2016-2017 as well as a 9% increase in the number of complaints considered eligible to be investigated by the Ombudsman’s office;
  • 38% of complaints were upheld which the Ombudsman states is high, considering that these complaints have gone through two internal mechanisms already;
  • There was a difficulty in obtaining requested information from prisons which some prisons refusing to reply to requests for information and others requiring repeat requests;
  • Complaints going through the internal complaint mechanisms often delayed, not robust enough and sometimes prisoners received responses to their complaints from the person they complained about;
  • Complaints about lost or damaged property were the largest category. These complaints diminished the scarce resources of the prison due to the requirement to pay compensation as the prisons were not complying with the national policy on handling and recording prisoners’ property;
  • Only 18% of complaints relating to adjudication were upheld which the Ombudsman suggests means that the prisons are getting it right for the most part;
  • Rule 39 (privileged mail) complaints consisted of prisoners being required to submit such mail unsealed and that such mail was not opened in front of them;
  • There was an increase in the number of complaints from Transgender prisoners;
  • Complaints about staff behaviour comprised of 8% of complaints;
  • Only 12% of complaints from Probation Supervisees were considered eligible for investigation compared with 54% of complaints from prisoners and 53% of complaints from immigration detainees.

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