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Shaking Up the Prison System: Why Detainee Safety Should Come First



Earlier this month, the biggest shake up of the prison system in recent years was announced by the Queen during her address at the State Opening of Parliament.


The most significant reformation of the system since Victorian times, the new measures will see six trial 'reform prisons' given greater autonomy over all aspects of internal management, including budget, education and rehabilitation services. The new regime comes as a part of the government's increased commitment to public protection, which aims to cut crime by reducing instances of prisoners reoffending.


We strongly support increased prisoner education and a focus on reducing reoffending, and these changes provide an opportunity to address some of the other urgent issues currently facing the prison system, including overcrowding, death and suicide. These have been highlighted by experts and prison governors as requiring funding, too.


"Enabling safer custody is a central focus at Oxehealth"


Enabling safer custody is a central focus here at Oxehealth, and it's in order to safeguard detainee wellbeing that we are developing our revolutionary Oxecam technology in collaboration with leading custody systems across Prison, Mental Health and the Police. With 256 deaths occurring in prisons last year and numbers not only rising, but rising rapidly, it's a serious problem in desperate need of attention.


Detainees in police custody and prison are by definition vulnerable, and exposed to a wide range of risks that makes ensuring their wellbeing especially difficult. For instance, a considerable proportion of people will enter detention suffering from drug or alcohol dependencies, and detoxing can place considerable strain on their health. These prisoners are at high risk from serious injury or accidental death in prison, a risk that increases further for prisoners on their first night in detention, or in segregation.


"First night, detox, healthcare and segregation cells all present increased risk of suicide or health difficulties"


Speaking on Radio 4's PM show following the reform announcement, former prison governor John Podmore said that the problem for prisons remains underfunding and therefore understaffing. In an ideal world, he claimed, three prison officers would be available for each prisoner in order to prevent violence, injury or death an unachievable prospect under the current budgetary and systemic restrictions. Ultimately, he says, there are not enough staff let alone healthcare professionals to ensure detainee wellbeing.


This, though, is where health monitoring solutions like Oxecam could prove invaluable. Able to monitor detainees continuously, accurately and remotely, Oxecam can alert prison staff to changes in detainee health by tracking heart rate, breathing rate and movement. Oxecam can monitor vulnerable prisoners where overstretched staff can't, and it's investment into these revolutionary solutions that can save lives and money.


"Oxecam can alert overstretched staff to health risks to vulnerable detainees"


With an independent review into deaths in police custody, headed by Home Secretary Theresa May, already in process, new approaches and solutions are clearly already being considered. As similar challenges exist across not only police custody and prisons, but also mental health facilities and other secure room environments, the benefits of implementing technologies like Oxecam are considerable – delivering the vital care, everywhere that could save lives where people are most vulnerable.