§ Mr. Andrew Mitchell
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he plans: (i) to strengthen the efforts made by the prison service to prevent suicides by inmates and (ii) to ensure that the families of inmates who die in custody receive the support which they require following the death.
§ Mr. Kenneth Baker
I regard suicide and self-injury in prison as an extremely serious problem. I have asked the Director General of the Prison Service to give very high priority to it. Prison staff already make very considerable efforts to identify and care for inmates at risk, but I want to ensure that the necessary lessons are learned from past tragedies and consistently applied in future. The recent reorganisation of the prison service has presented the opportunity to reinforce existing guidance and secure more effective implementation of the prevention strategy set out in circular instruction 20/1989. Under a new addendum to CI 20/1989, area managers and governors are being required to institute more regular and thorough reviews of the measures being taken at their establishments. The suicide prevention management group within the establishment will be mainly responsible for such reviews: a thorough checklist of suicide prevention measures has been issued to ensure that all aspects of this complex and distressing problem are properly tackled.
In addition, governors are being given fresh guidance in circular instruction 52/1990 on support for bereaved families. Wherever practicable, visits will be made to close relatives of deceased inmates to offer sympathy, to respond to their questions and concerns and to pass on information, as appropriate, about specialised counselling and support services in the community.
I am conscious, too, of the traumatic effects which suicides can have on prison staff, particularly those who 405W had responsibilities for the care and supervision of the inmate concerned. CI 52/1990 also stresses the need for support to be given to any member of staff who may need it.
The addendum to CI 20/1989, together with CI 52/1990, will be issued tomorrow, 13 December, under cover of a letter to managers in the prison service from the Director of Inmate Administration and the Director of Prison Medical Services. Copies of all these documents are being placed in the Library.
We shall be reviewing our suicide prevention policies in the light of the report on this subject by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons which will be published very shortly.