Investigation after woman, 18, dies at Styal prison in Cheshire

Death of Annelise Sanderson is eighth in a women’s prison this year, reigniting calls for closure of jails

An investigation has been launched into the death of an 18-year-old woman at Styal prison in Cheshire.

The death on Tuesday is the eighth in a women’s prison this year. Half of these deaths have been at Styal, including the stillbirth of a baby there in June.

The prisons and probation ombudsman confirmed it was investigating the latest death.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “HMP Styal prisoner Annelise Sanderson died in custody on 22 December and our condolences are with her family and friends at this difficult time. The prisons and probation ombudsman has been informed.”

Among the deaths this year, two were recorded as self-inflicted, two were due to Covid-19, one was non-self-inflicted and two are awaiting classification.

Since the publication of the Corston review in 2007 following a spate of deaths in women’s prisons, a total of 118 women have died in prison. Some of the seminal report’s recommendations have not been implemented.

Deborah Coles, the director of the charity Inquest, said: “This is a deeply tragic yet preventable death of a young woman in prison. The Corston review was set up after a pattern of deaths in Styal. The persistence and repetition of the same issues reveals a glaring and shameful failure of government to enact recommended changes.

“The pandemic is now exacerbating isolation and mental ill health within prisons and we have seen a worrying increase in women’s self-harm. Fundamentally, to prevent deaths and harm we must dismantle women’s prisons and invest in specialist services in the community.”

Lucy Baldwin, a senior lecturer and researcher in criminology at De Montfort University in Leicester, said: “Any death of a young person is tragic, particularly at this time of year, but especially so when the death is very likely to have been a preventable one. I am almost sure it will transpire that this young woman, like so many others, was imprisoned for a minor offence and that her offending could have and should have been more effectively addressed in the community.

“Instead she was incarcerated at a time when residents and prisoners are cut off from vital support of their families and loved ones. To describe this as a tragedy is an understatement. My thoughts are with her friends, family and the residents and staff who knew her.”


Diane Taylor

The GuardianTramp

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