Sunday, July 02, 2006

Backing for an inquiry into the death of Joseph Scholes

Sixteen year old Joseph Scholes was a depressed, vulnerable and frightened young man. He had been sexually abused and ended up in a children's home. He went out with some other lads and robbed some people on a train. Scholes was on the periphery and took no real part in the crime. Yet he was found guilty and jailed because no alternative secure accomodation was available. He killed himself nine days into his sentance in 2002.

Martin Narey (former Prison Service director) will this week back a campaign (along with Inquest, Scholes's mother, Yvonne and David Ramsbotham) to force the Home Office to allow an official enquiry. David Ramsbotham (ex-prison inspector) states: "The cases of Scholes and others who died in custody demonstrated the urgent need for John Reid to take action".

And only during the past week the inquiry into the racist murder of Zahid Mubarek, 19, by his cellmate at Feltham was published.

Sarah Campbell was also a frightened, vulnerable and depressed young woman who had an addiction to heroin. She was convicted of manslaughter and within days of her conviction she killed herself by taking 120 anti-depressants in January 2003. Six women committed suicide between August 2002 - August 2003 in Styal and sorry to be blunt but the best way of describing that prison is that it is an utter oppressive shit-hole (and that's from ex-women prisoners).

Wesley McGoldrick was caught shoplifting and concealing a knife. He was remanded in custody at Brixton Prison. Less than a day later he had hanged himself. He was 24.

Half of people who commit suicide are on remand, awaiting trial or sentencing. Sarah Campbell was never risk assessed and it was known she was a suicide risk.

Judges and magistrates are driven by a populist agenda to make sure people are locked up as letting them out would only increase the ire of the tabloids. And well... they just might commit a crime and it is "better to be safe than sorry" This unelightened, blinkered and reactionary stance only increases the prison population, increases distress, overcrowding and so on. The female prison population has risen 146% in 10 years. In the first half of 2003, 7,700 inmates tried to injure themselves. At the moment the current prison population in England and Wales stands at 91,886. Just what is to be gained by this?

How many more young vulnerable and depressed people have to needlessly die before the government acts?

Locking people up who are depressed and frightened is no bloody solution. As Women In Prison argue: "Prison does not work. The best way to cut offending is to deal with its root causes."

But an enlightened attitude like that does not connect with the "Law and Order" policies of New Labour. Instead Blair and co will follow the old mantra: "Understand a little less, condemn a little more"....

No More Prisons (set up by the mum of Sarah Campbell, Pauline)


Women in Prisons