WAITING FOR TOO LONG: THE URGENT NEED FOR HEALTH AND JUSTICE REFORM
Posted on 20th February 2024 by Dan Price
The first few weeks of 2024 has seen the publication of numerous reports about the wellbeing of prisoners in England and Wales. They present a picture of a system that is struggling to cope, putting the wellbeing of both prisoners and staff members at considerable risk.
From inspectorate reports about individual prisons, such as at HMP Bedford, to thematic reviews across the country, there is compelling evidence of the risks to both mental and physical health that people are facing. In January, for instance, the Independent Monitoring Board published evidence about the use of segregation units in prison for people experiencing acute mental health needs, in many cases while waiting for weeks and months for an urgent hospital bed. Then in February, HM Inspectorate of Prisons and the Care Quality Commission raised further concerns about these protracted waits and their effects on people’s health and safety. Data published by the Ministry of Justice last year also show rising rates of self-harm, suicide deaths and assaults on staff members in prisons in England and Wales. In the year to September 2023, there were 93 deaths described as ‘self-inflicted’ (out of a total of 311 deaths in prisons), 67,773 incidents of self-harm involving 12,292 people, and more than 25,000 assaults on members of staff.