January 25 2022

Failure to provide food ‘contributing factor’ in death of a prisoner at Wormwood Scrubs

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Failure to provide food ‘contributing factor’ in death of a prisoner at Wormwood Scrubs

An inquest has identified failure to provide food as a contributing factor to the death of a prisoner at Wormwood Scrubs. Winston Augustine was 43-years-old when he was found hanging in his cell in the prison in West London having been transferred to the segregation unit.

The coroner highlighted as a matter of ‘greatest concern’ and a ‘violation of Winston’s dignity’ that he didn’t receive food for as long as he did. At the time of his death, Augustine was in a state of ketoacidosis suggestive of starvation.

Prison officers told the inquest that they did not consider it safe to open Augustine’s cell door to provide him with food or medication as they described him as ‘non-compliant.’ He suffered from chronic pain caused by kidney stones and the jury found that the failure to provide medication was another contributory factor leading to his death. He had not been given two daily doses of pain relief and so would have been in excruciating pain at the time of his death.

When Winston Augustine was found hanging in his cell, witnesses described him as being ‘very very cold’ – suggesting that he likely died at least four or five hours before being discovered by officers. The jury in the inquest found that the inadequate frequency and the quality of welfare checks probably contributed to Winston’s death.

Winston Augustine’s cousin Diane Martin described him as ‘loving and caring’. ‘This is the side many people did not see. Unfortunately, Winston carried out crimes to feed an addiction that came from being in physical pain. He was more than remorseful afterwards,’ she said.

Martin added: ‘We have concerns about how a prison is run. It shouldn’t have taken Winston’s death for things to be rewritten. Policies should have been in place and carried out correctly.’

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST, said: ‘The evidence of the inquest into Winston’s death exposes basic failures at every level. This was a healthy man who was labelled as aggressive, written off, and driven to his death. Prison staff lost sight of Winston’s humanity and of their duty to keep him safe. This shocking treatment is part of a pattern of inhumanity uncovered at inquests, particularly into the deaths of Black and racialised people, in prisons and detention. It must not be allowed to continue.’

One response to “Failure to provide food ‘contributing factor’ in death of a prisoner at Wormwood Scrubs”

  1. John O says:

    Paul Blackburn Former Miscarriage of Justice Comments on the Death of Winston Augustine

    The death of Winston Augustine in Wormwood Scrubs punishment block wasn’t a tragedy, it wasn’t an accident & it wasn’t simply a case of neglect it was as much a racist a murder as if the prison officers had kneeled on his neck for 9 minutes!

    It was deliberate & it was calculated & this is proven by the claim that Winston was unable to be attended to because of “his” non compliance, half a dozen burly prison officers experienced in control & restraint measures could not open his steel clad door & slide in a plate of food or a tablet in because he was being naughty & not doing as he was told. It also reminds me of the old excuse they used to use to blame the victim for their own death, then it was that black people have a propensity to “prone asphyxiation”, more recently brutality at Wormwood Scrubs has been excused by “preventative assaults” claiming they had to assault a prisoner because they believed they were about to be assaulted, now it seems being deemed “non compliant” is also a death sentence!

    I was in Wormwood Scrubs punishment block for about 18 months in the late 90’s when some 27 members of staff were charged with numerous assaults on prisoners. In those 18 months i witnessed numerous acts of brutality, abuse, racism & neglect, if you are black, asian, oriental, gypsy, mixed race or Irish you were getting a beating & would be abused for every second that you are in the punishment block. Several of the officers charged were imprisoned & the then Home Secretary Jack Straw read out a statement in parliament stating that Sir David Ramsbothams inspection report on the prison had found “a destructive, unco-operative, & self seeking attitude amongst a minority of officers that managers found difficult to combat”.

    What I found was much, much darker than that! What I found was no more than the culture of the people who ran the death camps, people with the absolute power of life & death over you & they knew it & revelled in it. They weren’t involved with a “culture” of violence or trapped in a regime that “lost” control, although there must have been examples of this, they were/are willing & able participants! The Prison Service, as with the Police Service, attracts those with evil in their hearts & minds & gives them the chance to do what they will to their fellow man like when two ordinary nondescript people meet & become Brady & Hindley together!

    Winston Augustine died from hate, when so little could have saved him what else could it have been? I heard them mob handed rushing & beating a black guy (who was severely injured) in his cell & then the screws slamming the door & running away down the landing laughing & joking like kids who have been naughty, “did you see his head slam on the wall ha ha ha!” one said! Often I heard them talking of how they were still off their heads from the drink or drugs from they had taken the previous night/early morning & trying not to be caught out by the new boss, a female superior officer (a straight goer) placed there to “clean up” the block & planning how to beat people in the strip cells where she couldn’t go as men were naked, calculated & premeditated!

    When the screws got nicked for assault the rest of the screws refused to work in the punishment block, supposedly but damningly in “solidarity” & they had to bring Governor grade staff in from where ever they could, except for one officer who I remember who was a jewish guy, had a black girlfriend & had several degrees to his name & so was pretty much ostracised by the rest of the staff & he decided that if they said no then he was going to say yes! Some years later I stepped in when a prisoner tried to attack him with a pair of scissors, after more than 20 years unjustly & brutally incarcerated in jail I hadn’t lost my humanity or respect for a good man! In Jack Straws statement in the late 90’s it was stated that a senior representative of the POA, Prison Officers Association, made the response to allegations of brutality by saying that prisoners at Wormwood Scrubs were “scum of the earth.” I can’t say every screw is evil but how many would ever speak out & prove the lie of “a few bad apples” or a “broken system”, the system is broken & always has been & always will be. it’s a construct imposed on us, we need change not just in prison but in society as a whole, it’s not just the system we need to fix but ourselves!

    Only when we are prepared to take on the responsibility of our history & our future will we ever be able to do anything about these injustices & we still have a long way to go when people are prepared to vote a racist in as Prime Minister & the whole of the media are like Basil Fawlty desperately trying to not talk about the war!

    Paul Blackburn former Miscarriage of Justice

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