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Failed By Prison Staff


Friday, February 13th, 2009 Failed By Prison Staff

Duncan Campbell of the Guardian (10 02 09) writes about a mentally ill inmate at a privately run prison who could have avoided death, Despite Michael Bailey being a clear suicide risk, staff at the controversial Rye Hill prison failed to carry out their duties properly, and records of his treatment were falsified, the inquest heard.

The Jury ruled that there had been a very serious lack of communication which resulted in is death. Bailey, hanged himself with his shoe laces in March 2005.

“There was a failure on the part of all staff to take responsibility for ensuring his safety,” said the jury, in a narrative verdict at the Rushden and Diamonds conference centre in Northamptonshire. “Prison staff, healthcare staff and doctors did not do all that could be reasonably expected.”

The assistant deputy coroner for Northamptonshire, Tom Osbourne, described the circumstances that led to Bailey’s death as “shameful”.

The Mother of Mr Bailey has welcomed the news. She says, “each and every one owed dear Michael a duty of care and they failed,” she said. “If just one member of staff had acted accordingly, Michael could still be with us and with his son, who is six years old and talks of the father he will now never know.”

Bailey, 23, was found hanging in th4e segregation unit of the prison. From Birminghame, he was one of three prisoners at the privately run jail to commit suicide within a fifteen month period. According to the chief inspector of prisons the prison had “deteriorated to the extent that we considered that it was an unsafe and unstable environment for both prisoners and staff”. Many of the staff were inexperienced or lacked proper training.”

There had been no earlier indications of Bailey suffering any mental health issues. He was serving a four year sentence for drug related offences and was actively demonstrating symptoms of severe psychosis almost immediately before his untimely death, talking openly about suicide and walking naked in the exercise yard, reciting the Lord’s Prayer. In a note written on the day of his death, he referred to himself as “a sinner … pray for me that I may be forgiven”.

In his summary, the coroner quoted the prison ombudsman’s report that “very few people who came into contact with Mr Bailey emerge from this investigation with any credit … The so-called care plan was simply hopeless. There was a failure by all concerned to take personal responsibility for looking after Mr Bailey.”

The lawyer representing the family has welcomed the verdict saying, “This was an accident waiting to happen,” she said. “It is clear that the mentally ill are not getting the care in prison they deserve.” She is bringing a civil action for damages on behalf of the family against the companies managing the prison.

Inquest, the organisation that campaigns on the issue of deaths in custody, has called for proper treatment for all mentally ill inmates.

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