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Prisoners: Death

Volume 472: debated on Wednesday 20 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps the Government intend to take to reduce the numbers of deaths in prisons. (186297)

A broad, integrated and evidence-based prisoner safer custody strategy (an umbrella term for suicide prevention, self-harm management and violence reduction) is in place. The strategy can be summarised as,

‘Reducing distress and promoting the wellbeing of all who live and work in prisons.’

It integrates with other agendas that share the aim of improving the quality of life in prisons; such as resettlement, drugs, detoxification, health, and staff leadership and training.

Prison Service Order (PSO) 2700: Suicide Prevention and Self-Harm Management, aims to embed improved methods of working in all relevant areas of prison life. Building on several years of learning from the experiences of prisoners, staff, investigators, inspectors and others, it incorporates developments such as the introduction of ACCT (Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork) a new care-planning system for at-risk prisoners, improved cross-agency information flows, and integrated local safer custody teams pursuing a continuous improvement plan in each prison. Also reflected in the PSO are long-standing areas of safer custody work such as listener and insider peer supporters, suicide prevention co-ordinators in each prison, and working with outside organisations.

A focus on personal safety, supporting victims, and repairing the physical and emotional harm caused by violence or abuse, links closely with the suicide prevention strategy. The recently revised PSO 2750 requires all prisons to have local violence reduction strategies appropriate to needs, encouraging a whole prison approach to reducing violence and the fear of violence. The PSO takes account of the recommendations of the report into the death of Zahid Mubarek (murdered by his cell-mate in 2000), and brings together policy on violence reduction, anti-bullying and cell sharing risk assessments.