Prison inspectors carried out the 2017 inspection of HMP Leeds revealing some concerning findings.
In the report the prison was described as one of the most seriously overcrowded in the country, with 91% of the cells holding more prisoners than they were designed for. HMP Leeds was again found to be an unsafe prison, with the inspector’s assessment of the area of safety being a very clear ‘poor’.
Levels of violence were far too high with prisoners stating they felt unsafe. Self harm and the use of force were all high with several staff suspended or dismissed for misbehaviour when using force. There were also concerns about the ease of availability of drugs within the prison.
At the time of this inspection, 47% of the staff were still in their probationary period, and prisoners expressed frustration at their inexperience and lack of knowledge of basic procedures.
The report described particularly concerning was that since the last inspection, there had been four self-inflicted deaths, with another occurring during this inspection. The day after the inspection ended, there was an apparent homicide in the jail, and a few days after that another self-inflicted death, seven deaths in total.
The review also identified recommendations that ought to be carried out, namely that ACCT (Assessment, Care in Custody, Teamwork) documents should reflect a high standard of care planning, including care maps which should reflect the needs of the prisoner. There was a lack of evidence of staff observations showing any positive interaction.
Furthermore, it was noted that prisoners on ACCTs should not be held in the segregation unit without thorough and recorded examination of alternatives.
Andrew Neilson at the Howard League for Penal Reform said the report highlighted that “bold action” to help reduce the prison population was “inescapable”.
He stated “There is surely no clearer illustration of the dangers of prison overcrowding than this report on Leeds. It is almost impossible to comprehend the scale of the chaos in a jail where 91% of cells are holding more people then they are designed to accommodate“.
He also commented on the fact that seven deaths had occurred within the space of 23 months with six of them being self inflicted. “If this grim reality does not compel government to act, it is hard to imagine what would”.
Minton Morrill Solicitors have represented several bereaved families over the years that have lost a loved one at HMP Leeds including two of the deaths being those identified during the inspection. These tragic deaths include:
It is unfortunate that the findings revealed within the report repeats what has already been identified and criticised during the above inquests and associated investigations. It is deeply worrying that despite numerous recommendations being made over the years by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Prison and Probation Ombudsman and the Coroner’s Court, there has been a lack of change within the prison.
Failures with ACCT management in a broad range of areas, lack of meaningful interactions, the lack of healthcare input, the inappropriate use of segregation and failures in staff training are repetitive issues that have been identified as contributory factors to the deaths of those who have lost their lives at the prison.
If these systemic issues are not addressed as a matter of urgency there will only continue to be an increase in deaths within HMP Leeds.
If you think you would like to speak with a member of the Minton Morrill Inquest/Police Actions Team, please call on 0113 245 8549 or contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.