Another huge rise in the suicide rates in prisons reported. Sadly this will continue to rise. The report claims that there is only anecdotal evidence that reduction of staffing is responsible in any way.
The crisis in the system is definitely responsible for a large number of these events. Staff are being squeezed to a level where, through no fault of their own they are just not fit for purpose. Given that and the totally outdated procedures for detecting and dealing with those at risk there is an inevitability that incidents are going to continue to be more and more regular.
A radical approach is called for firstly accepting that the problem will never be irradicated. Once that point is reached . new kind of approach must be put into force. There is no longer any provision for dealing with prisoner welfare in our prison system.
Over the years the probation service has become nothing more within the prison as a form filling extension of the court service. It is virtually impossible for a prisoner to see a probation officer on a face to face basis (lack of resources again) and when they do they are made to realise it is not the job of the probation officer to help with welfare problems.
In some prisons the Chaplaincy team become the safety net, and often a very effective one but again that team, in every prison and yoi in the country is woefully under resourced.
The Listener system is also very effective if it is allowed to operate freely and thrive but that is a very bi if in these austere times.
The main area where the addressing of self harm is without doubt in the area of prisoner mentoring but to do that properly needs extensive resources to identify and train mentors, it also needs a sympathetic approach from the staff throughout the establishment. It is highly radical and needs a huge groundswell of change but done properly it would be extremely effective and would become less and less expensive to run as it becomes established.
In my recently published book, A LIFE OF SENTENCES which available in paperback from Amazon or the publishers I talk quite extensively about the Listener scheme as one who has experienced it and mentored many guys through it and I argue without any fear of contradication the the most effective way forward in this very sensitive subject is through using prisoner mentors.

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