Government statistics indicate that black prisoners are currently in the system at a rate that is five times higher than that of white prisoners; this has led to fears that these latest stats will hit the black community hardest.
‘Clearly there are concerns about this and we need to have an ethnic breakdown of exactly who has died in prison in the last 12 months in order to establish current trends.
One suicide is one to many and we have seen figures on the over representation of ethnic minorities within prison settings but not been given any answers as to why this is not being addressed’ Lord Herman Ouseley, former head of the Chairman of the Commission For Racial Equality said.
The Ministry of Justice announcement has revealed that 93 people lost their lives last year and comes in tandem with a statement from The HLPR (Howard League for Penal Reform) which shows that 45 percent of those who died were either being held on remand, unsentenced or awaiting sentence after conviction.
‘It is disturbing to see that half of the people who have lost their lives in these institutions were not actually convicted of any crime but rather were on remand or awaiting sentencing,’ Rev Paul Grey, New Testament Church of God, Nuneatun branch said.
Penal reformers blamed overcrowding for the increase in deaths. HM Inspectorate of Prisons thematic review of mental health published last October showed staffing levels in prison mental health care are just one-third of what is needed with the majority of prisoners with mental health problems getting inadequate care and are being released with the same, or worse, problems.
‘It is not conducive to anyone’s mental well being to be behind bars, human potential was never meant to be locked away it was meant to released. The current models that are being used are flawed, if they weren’t’ then people staying in the system would not be dying,’ Rev Paul Grey, New Testament Church of God, Nuneatun said.
BMH UK have welcomed prisons minister Maria Eagle call for an inquiry into the reasons behind the increase, to look into measures to improve security for those suffering from mental health problems. ‘An inquiry is welcomed and urgently needed, what we must ensure is that there is appropriate and equal representation of all stakeholders, especially from communities group most adversely effected by this.
It is horrifying to think that there has been at least one death every week in 2007 in prison settings. We need an ethnic breakdown of these figures to gauge the extent of the problem so we can establish effective strategies to ensure that these figures come down.’ Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said.