ONTD Political

Prisons ombudsman: dying inmates 'inappropriately' handcuffed or chained

11:54 am - 02/06/2013
Source

More than 50 sick and elderly inmates were wrongly restrained during final days in hospital since 2007, says Nigel Newcomen

More than 50 dying prisoners have been wrongly chained or handcuffed during their final days in hospital in the past five years, the prisons ombudsman has revealed.

In one case a terminal cancer patient died in hospital while he was handcuffed to a prison officer and in another a prisoner remained chained while he was in a medically induced coma for four days.

Nigel Newcomen, the prisons and probation ombudsman, said restraints such as escort chains and handcuffs were used on the majority of dying prisoners who were admitted to a hospital or hospice in the last six months of their lives since 2007.

"The majority had been restrained while in hospital and it was identified in 51 investigations that the level of restraints used had been inappropriate," he said, citing examples when frail, immobile and even unconscious prisoners had remained restrained. "Too often I have been obliged to criticise the use of restraints in such cases," he said. The ombudsman added that reports on 23 of the 51 cases in which restraints had been used "inappropriately" were published between January and October 2012.

Newcomen said in a special "learning lessons bulletin" published on Tuesday that longer sentences and more offenders being sentenced later in life meant that prisoners aged 60 and over were now the fastest growing age group in jails across England and Wales.

"An older and ailing population brings new challenges and the past decade has seen deaths from natural causes outstrip self-inflicted deaths as the principal cause of death in prison custody. In 2011-12, there were 142 deaths in custody from natural causes, an increase of 20 over the previous year," said the ombudsman.

He added that the 500 investigations into deaths of prisoners from natural causes that he had investigated since 2007 showed some improvements such as more prisoners receiving palliative care equal to that provided in the community. But some prisons are struggling to balance security with humane and dignified treatment for the increasing number of people dying in their care.

He said his investigation showed that prisoners who were already ill when attending hospital have remained chained or cuffed even after their condition deteriorated further or was diagnosed as terminal. Furthermore, concerns raised by escort or medical staff were not appropriately considered, and restraints were routinely applied according to a prisoner's security category or offence rather than the risk he presented and, in some cases, restraints remained in place even as release on compassionate grounds was being sought.

Cases investigated by the ombudsman in the past two years included:
  • A terminal cancer patient who had been in custody for several decades whose risk assessment recommended he should be restrained while in hospital. His escorting officers detailed the rapid decline of his health in hospital but there was no reconsideration of the security arrangements. He died while handcuffed by a chain to a prison officer. His condition was only confirmed as terminal two days before he died but the restraints were not removed even when he was short of breath and could not move far from his hospital bed.
  • • A category A prisoner, who had spent a decade in jail before being diagnosed with cancer, remained chained to his escort even after he was put into a medically induced coma for four days after a diagnostic procedure when there was no possibility of escape. There was no evidence that the removal of the chain was considered at this time.
romp 6th-Feb-2013 09:08 pm (UTC)
I didn't know of this but it makes sense in a world where women giving birth can be handcuffed. Clearly, we can't rely on human decency and must legislate these things. I hope this report helps.
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