Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk has raised concerns about the number of inmate deaths at Bristol Prison. Mr Chalk brought up the issue in Parliament during questions to the Ministry of Justice. He highlighted the cases of three constituents who have died at the prison within the last eighteen months. Bristol Prison has one of the highest numbers of self-inflicted deaths in custody.
Questioning Sam Gyimah, Undersecretary of State for Justice, Mr Chalk asked:
“What reassurance can be provided that that prison is being given the scrutiny and support that it needs to get those figures down?”
Responding to Mr Chalk, the Minister said:
“Every death in custody is a tragedy, and I offer my condolences to the families of my hon. Friend’s constituents. We have increased the staffing level at HMP Bristol by 31 prison officers in the past year. I chair a weekly safer custody meeting with officials to drive forward improvements, and I review the details of every self-inflicted death to see how we might prevent others. We have also launched an internal review of our approach to safer custody, specifically in relation to mental health patients, and I would be willing to visit (HMP Bristol) prison in order to deal with this further.”
Mr Chalk commented:
“With three of my former constituents dying behind bars in the last 18 months in the same prison, I was determined to speak out on this issue.
“Prison must not be a holiday camp. Those that deserve to lose their liberty have harmed others, breached trust, destroyed lives and violated innocence. But that does not mean they deserve to die. In a decent society prisons must be places of safety as well as punishment. They must be humane. And they must also focus on tackling the underlying causes of criminality – including poor educational attainment and substance abuse.
“Today our prisons are far too violent and far too crowded. Some prisoners are locked up in their cells for 23 hours per day.There are a number of prisoners who suffer with mental health issues. Their experience in prison should never be so terrible that they lose their lives.”