First Posted on Antidepaware.co.uk
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By Andre Langlois
CONCERNS have been raised about communication between HMP Send and the Royal Surrey County Hospital after a prisoner was found hanged in her cell.
After a three-week inquest, jurors concluded that Melanie Beswick took her own life “whilst the balance of her mind was unstable”.
The 34-year-old was found hanged at HMP Send on the evening of August 21 in 2010.
Earlier that day she had been taken to the Guildford hospital, where she became agitated and tried to wrap her chains around her neck.
When she was taken back to the prison, she was put on an hourly watch rather than having constant supervision.
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Mrs Beswick was taking medication for mental health problems and previous incidents at the jail had raised concerns among some staff.
Coroner Richard Travers told the jury: “What you heard was that Melanie was not the typical prisoner and what you might think apparent is that she found the time in prison very difficult,”
Mr Travers was summing up evidence from more than 30 witnesses, including prison and hospital staff, as the inquest in Woking concluded on Tuesday (April 30).
On the morning of her death, Mrs Beswick was found unresponsive under her bed in a state of “shut down”.
She was left alone but checked on by prison officers, and at around 10am she was taken to hospital.
She became agitated there and three officers were required to restrain her.
“At some point after that you will recall that Melanie crawled under a cupboard and banged her head on the bottom,” said Mr Travers.
“She made a number of statements and said she was worthless and didn’t want to live.”
Earlier in the inquest proceedings, Dr Lorraine Anderson, the duty doctor at the hospital, described discussions with a prison officer. Dr Anderson said she believed Mrs Beswick would be put under constant supervision.
The mother of two was serving a 12-month sentence after she failed to repay around £19,000 stolen from her employer, the Citizens Advice Bureau. She had previously been released after serving half of a nine-month sentence for the fraud.
Mr Travers said Mrs Beswick expressed concerns that debt remained and could still end up making her two children in Portsmouth homeless – although expert opinion suggested that was unlikely.
“The uncertainty of that default sentence played heavily on her mind,” said Mr Travers.
“It was clear she did not understand what it meant or what the outcome would be.”
The jury returned a narrative decision saying: “The jury would like to express concern about the lack of communication between the hospital and the prison, and within the prison.”
The verdict went on to raise concerns that not all prison staff who dealt with Melanie on the day of her death were consulted when she was returned there.
“The recent events in her life appear to have been too much for Melanie to cope with,” the verdict read.
Mr Travers said communication had improved between the prison and hospital, and he would be commending the processes to the secretaries of state saying it could be “usefully used by other prisons around the country”.
Following the inquest, Mrs Beswick’s mother, Margery Davies said: “It’s the children who suffer most. It’s wrong to send mothers to prison especially when the crime they committed was not violent and they are not a threat to the public.
“Nothing can bring Melanie back but we hope to see real changes that mean no other family ever has to go through this again.” And Deborah Coles, co-director of campaign group INQUEST, added: “This is a shocking death of a woman who should never have been sent to prison.
“She was a first time, non-violent offender with mental health problems, a history of self-harm and had been recognised as a serious suicide risk.”