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Independent Professional Advice on the Prevention of Self-Inflicted Deaths and Self-Harm at HMP Woodhill by Stephen Shaw

In January 2017, Stephen Shaw, a former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, was commissioned to provide independent professional advice on the prevention of self-inflicted deaths and self-harm at HMP Woodhill, where there had been seven self-inflicted deaths during 2016. This followed a judicial review application from members of the families of two of the deceased prisoners. Their claim was subsequently rejected by the High Court in a judgment of 23 May 2017 (Scarfe & Ors, R (on the application of) v HMP Woodhill & Anor [2017] EWHC 1194 (Admin)).       Stephen Shaw submitted his report in May 2017, and it is published here.       The report concludes that “no one visiting Woodhill at the present time could be in any doubt as to the absolute focus upon the prevention of self-harm and suicide”, and that the emphasis upon prisoner safety is one that the author has “not encountered in nearly four decades of visiting, writing about and overseeing prisons”. It describes the actions taken by the Governor and (then) Deputy Director of Custody for the High Security Estate as representing “a robust and focused approach to the tragedies at Woodhill”, and concludes that Woodhill is not a “bad, sick or failing” prison. The report makes no specific recommendations for Woodhill, largely on the basis that there are plans for the prison to transition from a local prison to a category B training prison in the near future, but ends with two over-riding lessons that apply nationally as well as to the prison. These concern the Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT) process and staffing pressures, and both are being addressed as part of the HMPPS / MOJ Prison Safety Programme. Other learning in the report has been drawn upon locally at Woodhill, and to inform the work within the Prison Safety Programme to improve policies and processes, but because there are no recommendations there is no formal Government response to the report.       Please note that some names within the report have been redacted to protect the personal data of the individuals concerned.

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