WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
May 23 2022
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO

Woman prisoner with brain injury held in solitary confinement for over 1,000 days, IMB reveals

Woman prisoner with brain injury held in solitary confinement for over 1,000 days, IMB reveals

Pic: Andy Aitchison, ©PrisonImage

A woman with an acquired brain injury has been held in solitary confinement in a prison near Bristol for over 1,000 days, despite interventions by prisons and health ministers. A report on HMP Eastwood Park by the Independent Monitoring Board noted in October 2021 that the woman had been held in ‘inhumane’ conditions since July 2018, but she has still yet to be relocated or provided with appropriate support. The same report noted other prisoners were usually only segregated for up to 28 days. 

In the latest report, the watchdog highlights the woman’s case in a section addressed directly to the prisons minister. ‘Our concerns continue about a prisoner with an acquired brain injury who has been continuously segregated at Downview and Eastwood Park prisons for 1,202 days by the end of this reporting period. In response to correspondence your predecessor stated that “the truth is that the right environment simply doesn’t exist within the prison system to cater for her unique needs”. Why is it acceptable to discriminate against women when specialist facilities are available for men with a similar condition?’

The IMB first raised concerns in 2020, noting in their inspection report: ‘This prisoner exists from day to day in her cell, with little outside contact. While the Governor and staff ensure that the prisoner has the mandatory daily time out of cell, we cannot imagine the effect that such solitary confinement has on a person with an organic personality disorder resulting from a long-term brain injury.’

The successive reports question why specialist establishments exist for men with brain injuries, but not for women, leading to this ‘discriminatory and therefore unlawful’ period of confinement. 

A report by the BBC in February 2021 highlighted the plight of this woman, who has had a brain injury since she was a child, and was convicted for a violent assault. An MoJ spokesperson commented at the time: ‘The prisoner has extremely rare and complex needs and we are working very closely with partners across Government and beyond to ensure we are doing all we can to address them’. However, despite correspondence between the watchdog and successive prisons ministers, the woman’s detention in solitary confinement continues almost four years later.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons notes in their last report in 2019 that ‘there was a need for the prison to think very carefully about the arrangements for those women being segregated for extended periods, and indeed whether it was necessary to do so’.