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01 July 2015

The Harris Review: deaths of young people in custody ‘a failure by the State’

Commenting on Changing Prisons, Saving Lives: Report of the Independent Review into Self-inflicted Deaths in Custody of 18-24 year olds (The Harris Review), Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“Too many vulnerable young people are slipping through the net of mental health and welfare services and ending up behind bars. Very many of the tragic deaths described in this sobering report could have been prevented by thorough assessment and intervention at an earlier stage in these young peoples’ lives. Time and again this is what bereaved families say after struggling for years to get the help they need. The stark recommendation for the Minister to telephone families when a loved one has died in custody will come as a shock but it may well be that that only when this conversation takes place that change will result and true accountability be achieved.

“The report raises the fundamental question of why we lock up our most vulnerable young people in our bleakest and most short-staffed institutions. Prison should be a place of last resort and far more needs to be done to divert young people out of the criminal justice system into proper treatment and support.”

Further resources

You can read the evidence the Prison Reform Trust submitted to the review here.

An independent review was one of the recommendations of the Prison Reform Trust and Inquest’s joint report Fatally Flawed, on learning the lessons from the deaths of children and young people in prison.