British gov't urged to tackle unsafe prisons

Source: Xinhua| 2018-11-01 23:01:42|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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LONDON, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) -- A committee of leading politicians on Thursday urged the British government to tackle major problems at the country's unsafe prisons, where violence and self-harm are at a record high.

The House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee issued its call after an investigation into the state of prisons, which are almost full to capacity with more than 83,000 inmates.

As a result of staff shortages and overcrowding, prisoners have limited access to healthcare and healthy lives.

"A prison sentence is a deprivation of someone's liberty, not a sentence to poorer health or healthcare. However, standards inside England's prisons have deteriorated in recent years, following budget reductions and the loss of prison officers," said the committee in its report.

Chair of the committee Sarah Wollaston said: "We need assurances from government that it will urgently address the very serious situation in prisons with a whole systems approach underpinned by sufficient funding and attention to the prison and healthcare workforce."

The report said the mortality rate of people in prison is 50 percent higher than the general population, reflecting the poor health of prisoners and people in contact with the criminal justice system.

"This is often the result of, or is exacerbated by, early childhood experiences (abuse, neglect and trauma) social circumstances and higher rates of smoking, alcohol and substance misuse," said the report.

The committee says a government program of prison reform should place greater emphasis on health, wellbeing, care and recovery.

"The prison service often fails to learn lessons, even from serious incidents and inspection reports. This is not acceptable," said the committee, adding that every death of a prisoner by suicide must be regarded as preventable," it adds.

It wants the official Care Quality Commission to introduce a rating system in a similar way to the rating of health and care facilities.

The rating should show the extent to which prisons enable prisoners to live healthy lives and should also include not only the quality of health and social care provision in prison, but the extent to which all aspects of prison life allow prisoners to enjoy their fundamental right to health.