Irish Penal Reform Trust

UK: PPO Annual Report 2017-2018

11th October 2018

The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (England and Wales) has released its Annual Report 2017-2018. The report documents a number of issues and highlights the necessity for significant improvements to be made in prison in order to ensure future stability and security. The main findings of the report are centred on issues of self-inflicted deaths, older prisoners, drug related deaths, and complaints.

Self-inflicted deaths:

The report notes that while there was a thirty-seven per cent drop in self-inflicted deaths following a rise in the previous two years, the annual figures are masking a significant in-year fluctuation over the last three years, and an increase in the number of self-inflicted deaths in the final quarter of 2017. As well as this, it was noted that despite the decrease in figures, some individual prisons saw disproportionately high numbers of self-inflicted deaths during the year, and an increase in the number of suicides of those on post-release supervision.

Older prisoners:

A fifteen per cent drop in natural deaths was noted within the report despite the number of prisoners over 60 tripling in numbers. The “Model for Operational Delivery” which was published by HMPPs was acknowledged as an improvement in that it aids governors design prison services and environment to meet older prisoners’ needs. It was noted that despite showing some examples of good practice, it was not the properly resourced strategy that had been sought after. A need for a national strategy regarding the care of elderly and dying prisoners was identified and the launch of the NHS “Dying Well in Custody Charter”, which sets out the quality of palliative care that should exist in prisons, was welcomed. Major issues in this area noted were inconsistencies regarding the care for those who are dying, poor multi-disciplinary action, and routinely seeing prisoners who are frail/elderly/severely unwell being escorted to hospital in handcuffs.

Drug Related Deaths:

The report noted that the ease at which prisoners can obtain drugs was alarming and had become the norm within prisons. Of particular concern is the “epidemic” of psychoactive substances (PS) which have not only caused issues for staff relating to smuggling, deaths and health of prisoners, but also for prisoners who complained at some of the measures individual prisons had brought in to attempt to tackle the smuggling of PS in the absence of any properly resourced national strategy.


While the report documented that the number of complaints had decreased compared to previous years, they still remained worryingly high. Of particular frustration for prisoners was lost property which amounted to the majority of the complaints received. There was also a noted increase in the number of complaints relating to the use of force by staff which is reflective of the increasing levels of violence within the prisons in the UK.

Snapshot figures:

  • 316 deaths investigated - 12% decrease from previous year
  • Seven apparent homicides documented – increase from four
  • Decrease from 11 to one self-inflicted deaths by women in the year 2017-18
  • Four men took their own lives while in immigration detention
  • 4,790 complaints received – decrease of 4%
  • 32 eligible complaints from seven complainants identifying as transgender
  • Eight complaints from young people about staff behaviour – five of these upheld

Read the full report here.

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