2 February 2009
In her Annual Report 2007-08
, published on 29th January 2009, Dame Anne Owers, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, raised serious concerns with regard to the treatment and care currently provided to disabled prisoners within the prison system in England and Wales.
Her report found that, despite a significant proportion of the prison population identifying themselves as disabled (ie one in six of the prisoners surveyed), provision for disabled prisoners across the prison estate remains “patchy” and “inconsistent”, with the disability needs of many prisoners remaining unmet.
Most alarmingly, and despite the Prison Service’s stated disability policies, the report concluded that almost 60% (ie 100 of the 170 disabled prisoners surveyed) of disabled prisoners considered that they had a worse prison experience, across all areas of day-to-day prison life, than other prisoners.
In concluding her report, Dame Owers recognised that “a considerable amount of work is needed to ensure that prisons are complying with the DDA [Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (as amended)].”
Leigh Day & Co are currently acting for a number of disabled prisoners with a range of disabilities (including a profoundly deaf prisoner, a blind prisoner, a wheelchair using prisoner and prisoner with significant concentration and memory problems) in legal claims against the Prison Service. Unfortunately, our clients’ experiences echo the Chief Inspector’s findings in that our clients’ disabilities have neither been adequately assessed nor addressed with the result that they are far less able to participate in day-to-day prison life.
Particular problems that have emerged are a tendency for the Prison Healthcare Department (usually run by the local Primary Care Trust) and the Prison itself to both look to the other to assess and address our clients’ disability needs – with the result that nothing is ever done.
A further common problem is the lack of any significant strategic management of disabled prisoners by the Prison Service centrally. Even today, there is no comprehensive central list of disabled facilities in each of the 160 or so prisons in England and Wales. Rather, the individual prisons are simply left to deal with the situation themselves. This means that, despite recent Prison Service guidance that this should not happen, a disabled prisoner often gets “stuck” in one prison, however unsuitable, even if a different prison would be far more appropriate for meeting the disabled prisoner’s needs.
Our clients’ claims argue that the Prison Service are breaching our client’s human rights and are unlawfully discriminating against our clients contrary to the Disability Discrimination Act. The claims argue that the Prison Service are required to take urgent steps to assess and address our clients’ disability needs and compensate our client’s for the past failures.
For more information please contact Benjamin Burrows
or Sean Humber
on 020 7650 1200.
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