A woman has taken her own life after a prison support group rekindled memories of past abuse, a report has revealed.
Deborah Clayton died at Askham Grange Prison near York on August 19, 2020. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has now published his findings on her death.
Ms Clayton participated in a support group designed to give prisoners strategies for coping with past trauma. On July 1, 2020, she told officers it brought back difficult memories of historical abuse and she stopped going to the group.
She said she had nightmares about the abuse, but said she didn’t want mental health support and also refused addiction support.
On August 12, Ms Clayton was informed that a former partner was seriously ill. Two days later, she learns that her sister-in-law has died.
She told staff she was fine and had no thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
Four days later, prison staff began suicide and self-harm prevention procedures – known as ACCT – after Ms Clayton told an officer she was having suicidal thoughts. Staff checked her at least once an hour.
On August 19, the 46-year-old woman was found dead in her cell. Staff attempted to revive her but were unsuccessful.
It was the first time in prison for Ms Clayton, who was serving a ten-year sentence for a violent offence.
In her report, Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, Sue McAllister, said: ‘We are pleased that Ms Clayton received appropriate support when she said the trauma healing group brought back difficult memories and that the staff had appropriately opened the ACCT procedures after the death of her half-sister.
“Despite her assurances that she was not at risk of suicide or self-harm, staff left the protective measures in place.”
Where to get help
When life is tough, Samaritans are available, day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them free of charge on 116 123. And the following organizations also offer advice and help
But Ms McAllister said she was concerned that
- prison officers did not tell health staff that Ms Clayton’s sister-in-law had died
- there was no structure in place to assess or support the women attending the inmate-led trauma healing group.
She recommended that “the Director of Women’s Area ensure that the prisoner-led trauma healing group is appropriate for delivery in prisons and, if so, that the groups are properly monitored and supported. “.
You can read the full report on the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman website.