Stop Prisoner Suicide; Justice for Katie Allan, Stage 2
Stop Prisoner Suicide; Justice for Katie Allan, Stage 2
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Ten months after Katie took her own life at HMYOI Polmont and the campaign for truth and justice began, we went on the 2nd April 2019 to the Scottish Parliament.
I am writing this to thank those who have given us financial support to date, but also to plead to others who have not and those who have already contributed to give whatever you can. Please contribute anything you can and most importantly share the page with your friends, family and on social media. We can't do this without you.
Since we began our legal campaign, another young person, William Lindsay, took his life at the same prison as Katie in October 2018.
William who had spent most of his life in and out of care since the age of three, was put in Polmont at the age of 16 because a secure placement could not be found for him.
He was dead within 48 hours of his arrival.
He had a previous history of several suicide attempts, yet his cries for help, like Katie’s, went unheard.
As Scottish citizens Stuart and I are ashamed. We were an ‘ordinary family’, we had no idea what was going on within our prisons. Yet on the 10th of August 2017 that changed. Before that date, prison only touched us through the media and we gave little thought to the language used – “cage them” – “hang them” – “lock them up and throw away the key”.
We've been forced to take action.
I believe passionately that we are a tolerant, intelligent nation, yet we are incapable, as a society, to apply that intelligence to managing offenders.
What we hope to achieve
Last week we welcomed the latest crime stats in Scotland – a 42% drop in overall crime – yet we have over 8000 people in prison, “warehouses for the traumatised, disenfranchised and poor”.
This month we will remember Katie on her 22nd birthday. Then in the days leading up to the 1st anniversary of Katie’s death we will see the publication of the review of mental health in Polmont prison.
With all that is within us, we hope that the findings offer an honest and fitting tribute to our daughter, to William Lindsay, to Robert Wagstaff, to Liam Kerr, to Jordan Barron and countless others.
We hope that you and your friends will be able to donate to our legal campaign to allow us to carry on, to give a voice to the voiceless and hold the prison services and government to account.
We are not interested in apportioning blame to any political party for this, all of us are responsible. The abhorrent way the media reports crime, the underfunding of our criminal justice system, the understaffed prisons, society need for retribution of crime, the failings of our mental health system.
What are we doing and why?
We need funding in the next stage of our legal campaign to present to Government ministers, academics and society the stark reality of what is going on in the halls of our prisons. We need to instruct experts to look into what happened to Katie.
As we have been trying to come to terms with the death of our daughter and understand the sequence of failures that led to Katie taking her own life, we have been extremely frustrated at the limited amount of information available to the public on deaths in Scottish prisons.
We have therefore undertaken our own research to try and understand why the SPS take so long to publish their Deaths in custody statistics, why the information published is so limited, and why the SPS appear to hide behind the “Awaiting FAI” statement, to defer release of the prisoner cause of death.
In our statistics, we have reviewed information published by the Scottish prison Service on 258 prisoner deaths between 2008 and 2018. We have cross-referenced this with the cause of death recorded on the individual death certificates (where they were available)
Our obligation to Katie
Over the last 10 months we have celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas – all with part of us missing. Sunday past we endured Mother’s Day – a potent reminder that our daughter will never become a mum and we will never hold her children.
The sequence of events that led to Katie’s death is now a familiar story. Our pain and distress is public knowledge, hopefully the failings we have uncovered are too.
We have an obligation to Katie, as her loving parents and brother not only to expose the nightmare she endured but also to offer solutions; to uncover truths and ask “what if this was your child”?
Fighting to reveal the truth about suicide's in Scottish prisons
Several months ago we began the process of investigating the 258 deaths in Scottish Prisons after we became suspicious that the SPS were hiding the true picture of suicides in our prisons.
I was aware that whilst families were being provided with death certificates that told them the cause of death was by hanging, the public were being told that the cause of death was undetermined and that a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) would take place. This appears to happen in all suicides.
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service claim they keep in regular contact with our family. In fact they do nothing of the sort. Contact and disclosure is at best tokenistic and at worst non-existent.
In Scotland we have failed to confront the reality of the uneven playing field faced by bereaved families. Without funded representation, families are denied their voice and any meaningful role. The absence of representation weakens the life-saving potential of FAIs and investigations, by denying opportunities to interrogate the facts, highlight failings and identify measures to prevent future deaths.
Silence until an FAI is not an option, memories fade, cover ups take place, and even when an FAI concludes there are no recommendations, words of condolences are expressed, no lessons are learned and more suicides will take place with the same excuses offered years later.
What we have uncovered is that Scotland has the ‘death penalty’- it is no longer a jostling public spectacle around the gallows. It is a hidden, ‘invisible social murder’ behind the doors of the cells in our prison estate.
The 18 page pack reveals some horrific statistics, which as a nation that strives to the best in everything we do, is nothing short of a massacre. Some of the key statistics are as follows:
- We have researched 258 Deaths in Prison from 2008 to the beginning of December 2018.
- 67 families await a FAI to be completed on their loved one. Some of those are from prisoner deaths going back as far as 2014.
- The cause of death on the SPS website for those 67 is “Awaiting Determination” or in other words awaiting a FAI. Yet they must know what the cause of death is, as families such as ours are given death certificates which tell us ‘death by hanging’.
- In the last 10 years, 40% of prisoner deaths are suicides. And worryingly the numbers are on the increase each year.
- In 2008 35% of prisoner deaths were from suicides but in 2016, 17 and 18, this has rocketed to over 50%.
- 2017 (which is the last full year of stats we have) has double the deaths by suicide than 2008.
- 40% (32) of those that have taken their own life were under the age of 30. 12 of the 32 had taken their own life within one week of being admitted to prison.
When we looked in detail at the FAIs
- Of the last 50 published FAIs, 31 are related to deaths in prison of which 16 (32%) were prisoners that took their own life.
- The 16 FAIs completed on those that took their own life, ranged from a single page long to 60/70 pages long where the families of the deceased had legal representation. 69% of the families had no legal representation.
- 45% of the families waited 2 years or more for a FAI to be completed and 5 families waited an average of 43 months for an FAI to be completed.
- 3 of the 16 prisoners that took their own life, did so within hours of being in custody.
- In 63% (10) of the 16 FAIs, there was a history of mental health needs. Yet, less than 40% had any contact with a qualified Mental Health nurse.
- 56% (9) of the 16 had a history of suicide attempts. Yet, less than 1/3rd were on observations at the time of their death.
- None of the 16 FAI determinations relating to self-inflicted deaths made any recommendations.
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