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Prison questions to continue unanswered


Charlotte Nokes, death in prison, inquest delayed, questions unanswered, family fundraising, INQUEST, Colston Reort, failings, women in prisonWhy was Charlie Nokes allowed to die in prison?

The inquest into the death of IPP prisoner Charlotte Nokes at HMP Peterborough, due to start on Monday, has been delayed.

Charlotte Nokes was 38 when she died at HMP Peterborough, a private prison run by Sodexo. On 23 July 2016 she was found unresponsive in her cell and was pronounced dead at 8.55am.

The inquest into her death was due to open on Monday 14 October at Huntingdon Law Courts but has been delayed until February.

Sentenced to a minimum term of 15 months, Charlotte had been in prison for over eight and a half years at the time of her death, on an indefinite Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence.

IPP sentences were abolished by the government in 2012 for new prisoners but remain in place for those sentenced prior to this date.

Charlotte had mental and physical health diagnoses including Borderline Personality Disorder and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, (PMDD), a severe form of premenstrual syndrome.

In the months leading up to her death, Charlotte was prescribed heavy doses of medication to treat her mental and physical health that often left her appearing heavily sedated.

Her family said she had felt she would never be released from prison, and she had described the IPP sentence as a death sentence.

She was under suicide and self-harm monitoring procedures (known as ACCT) at the time of her death.

It is understood that Charlotte is the first person to have died in a women’s prison while serving an IPP sentence.

Her family hope the inquest will explore the following issues:

the cause of Charlotte’s death;

the treatment of Charlotte’s mental health in HMP Peterborough, including the monitoring of the impact of the drugs she was prescribed on her physical health;

the use of segregation in HMP Peterborough;

Charlotte’s cell observations on 22-23 July 2016;

the temperature of Charlotte’s cell on 22-23 July 2016.

Charlotte’s family are still crowdfunding for the preparation costs of her inquest. You can donate to the fundraising page here.

Since Charlotte’s death in July 2016, there have been four further deaths in Peterborough (women’s) prison, of which one was self-inflicted, one is awaiting classification and two were not self-inflicted.

Annabella Landsberg died at HMP Peterborough in September 2017. She was 45. Her death was not self-inflicted, and the jury at the inquest into her concluded finding a catalogue of serious failures in HMP Peterborough, a private prison run by Sodexo.

After two weeks of evidence, the inquest jury found “failings on the part of the prison, healthcare staff, GPs and custody officers that contributed to the death of Annabella Landsberg”.

In the past ten years, ten women have died in HMP Peterborough. In December 2018, the inquest into the death of Natasha Chin, a black woman from London who died in another Sodexo run prison, HMP Bronzefield, found neglect and systemic failures by prison and healthcare providers contributed to her death.

In May 2018 the charity INQUEST published Still Dying on the Inside: Examining Deaths in Women’s PrisonsThis report highlighted the lack of action by successive governments to prevent prison deaths and put forward a series of recommendations including closing women’s prisons by redirecting resources from criminal justice to community-based services.

In November 2018 the Health and Social Care committee published a report on Prison Health, echoing the concerns from both written and oral evidence given by INQUEST to the inquiry.

The committee made strong recommendations that the unacceptable number of deaths as a result of poor healthcare in prison were addressed.

The committee also recognised that ‘so-called natural cause deaths too often reflect serious lapses in care’ and that ‘too many prisoners die in custody or shortly after release’ – and said that ‘no one establishment stood out as a model of a healthy prison that could be replicated’.

In June 2018 the Ministry of Justice launched a long-awaited ‘Female Offenders Strategy’.

INQUEST responded, saying much of the strategy was unsubstantive, empty rhetoric.

Since the 2007 publication of Baroness Corston’s seminal review on women in the criminal justice system, which was hailed by many as the blueprint for change, there has been little long-term systemic change and many of the recommendations she made have yet again been ignored. In the period since her review was published there have been 104 deaths in women’s prisons.

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