A family in England is trying to raise awareness about the death of their son – a prison inmate who committed suicide behind bars eight years after his older brother died the same way in another prison.
"I've now lost two sons. There's a fundamental problem with the way suicidal people are looked after in prison," Marion Piggott, of Chaddesden, told The Derby Telegraph.
Piggott's youngest son, Simon Gregory, 36, committed suicide at HMP Chelmsford Prison on Nov. 27, 2007. The father of four took his own life just five days after he was incarcerated for allegedly stealing clothes from a Gap store in Colchester.
A recent inquest into Gregory's death concluded with the finding that he committed suicide, in part, because "the state failed to protect and recognize [the] risk of the prisoner through inappropriate care and support, inadequate staffing levels during patrol state and lack of essential equipment to deal with medical emergency."
Evidence presented before the jury at the inquest hearing indicated Gregory had cut his wrists in the days leading up to his death and had told cellmates and staff members that he was suicidal.
The prison placed Gregory on suicide watch, however, on the day of his death there was a staff shortage and one officer was tasked with watching over the 126 prisoners in his wing. The officer told the jury he had no time to read Gregory’s record, in which a senior officer had indicated Gregory was "desperate and in need of support."
The jury also heard allegations that after Gregory was found hanging in his cell, the prison medical staff did not take a defibrillator to his cell because it was an older model that was cumbersome and supposedly did not work well.
Gregory's suicide is the second tragedy to befall his family.
In 1999, Gregory's older brother, Philip, 31, hanged himself in prison at HM Leicester. According to their sister, 25-year-old Katrina White, Simon Gregory and his brother were inseparable and he fell into a deep depression after his brother died.
"He couldn't even bring himself to go to Philip's funeral," White told The Derby Telegraph.
Gregory's family is upset that a second son has been lost to the same fate. Because of the findings during the inquest, they are now considering legal action.
"Mr. Gregory's death is a tragic example of a failure on behalf of the prison to adequately intervene and respond to an acute need for support and care," Kat Craig, solicitor for the family, said according to Christian Khan, a London-based firm of criminal and discrimination law solicitors.
Craig added: "The jury's findings on this point are [a] firm indication that more should have been done, and that the prison was ill-equipped and under-resourced to deal with vulnerable prisoners."
Meanwhile, White said she hopes her brother did not die in vain and that changes to the way the prison operates will be forthcoming.
"I hope this will encourage HMP Chelmsford and others caring for vulnerable people in custody to improve the care provided to prisoners like Simon," she told The Gazette.