Another woman dies in prison – stop the killing

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Yet another woman prisoner has died in prison, and once again it is at the widely condemned HMP Styal for women in Cheshire.

36 year old mother Alison Colk was found hanging in her cell on 8 January this year, apparently 1 day into a 28 day sentence. She was not on a suicide watch, and is the third woman to die by suicide at Styal in the last 20 months, and the tenth since 2002. There is a report in the local media here.

The campaigning organisation ‘Inquest’ has referred to Styal as: ‘a prison with a disturbing history of deaths of vulnerable women’. Deborah Coles, for Inquest, stated: “It is deeply shocking that a woman has died one day into her sentence. Vital questions need to be asked about what possible justification can there be in sentencing a woman to just 28 days. Despite high level scrutiny of Styal prison, serious concerns remain about the safety and quality of life for women held there and why lessons from previous deaths appear not to have been learned. Unless more women are diverted from prison the increase in self inflicted deaths and the associated high levels of self harm, mental distress and family disruption will continue”.

Ms Colk is one of 7 men and women to have died in prison already this year, as a result of self-harm/suicide. Inquest’s figures for death in prison from 1993 to the present can be found here. They are more reliable and accessible than those of the Home Office, on whose site it was impossible to quickly find accurate up to date figures. One wonders why?

Prison campaigners and mothers Joan Meredith and Yvonne Bailey have called demonstration at HMP Styal for 28 January at 1pm. Joan Meredith and Yvonne Bailey have worked together with and supported prison justice movements such as ‘Inquest’, ‘No more prisons’ and with the late Pauline Campbell and ‘the Howard League’ for several years. They are both mothers and wish to help stop the devastating effects of such deaths. Styal Prison is at Styal Road, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 4HR.

Our thoughts are with the families and friends of all those who have died as a result of actions by the state – politicians, the prosecution service, judges, prisons and police.

Without justice there will be no peace.