The mother of a young student who took her own life in prison has claimed the justice minister is not doing enough to prevent suicides.
Linda Allan has called on Humza Yousaf to have ligature points removed from all jail cells after the death of her daughter, Katie, at Polmont Young Offenders Institution in 2018.
However, freedom of information (FOI) requests have revealed the government has decided it is too expensive to take out all fixtures and fittings that could be used to attach a ligature.
Katie Allan was serving six months for failing to stop her car after drunkenly driving into a 15-year-old boy, who was knocked unconscious.
Ms Allan, who was 21 when she died, had been suffering from depression after repeated strip searches by staff. Her family is campaigning for greater protection for suicidal inmates.
Yousaf agreed to a review of prisons after meeting Katie’s family but Linda Allan said she has since struggled to get answers from the justice minister.
She said: “When we met with Humza Yousaf following Katie’s death, we asked him if ligature points could be removed from the prison estate. Given that 93% of suicides in prison custody are by the same means, we thought this was a reasonable request.
“We were told that Scottish prisons would carry out a review. We were given no further details. We have had to resort to FOI requests for information.”
She said a response to an FOI request revealed removing ligatures from the prison estate would cost £153 million, which was “prohibitive”.
Allan said: “Three years on and hooks on walls, light fittings and furnishings remain. They have been used at least 20 times since Katie’s death. Apparently every death is a tragedy, just not enough of a tragedy to implement meaningful change.”
The family’s lawyer, Aamer Anwar, said: “We are astonished at the apparent cost of removing ligatures and don’t accept that it can’t be done. It is a slap in the face for Linda and all families who have lost loved ones to suicide in prison.
“At the very least the prison service could make a start by removing ligatures in Polmont Young Offenders Institution. I think it’s a disgrace that this is not even being considered.”
Yousaf said his thoughts remain with the families of prisoners who have died in custody. He said a review of the handling of deaths in custody will report in the summer.
He added that measures had been taken to support young offenders, including the rollout of mobile phones with access to the Samaritans helpline, and virtual visits.
The Scottish Prison Service said the only way to ensure a ligature-free environment was to put prisoners in safer cells but it is not desirable to keep prisoners in an environ- ment that is essentially a padded cell for any longer than you have to because it will have an impact on their mental wellbeing.
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