Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health (SCMH) chief executive Angela Greatley said: “The inquiry into the death of Zahid Mubarek at Feltham Young Offenders Institution is a tragic reminder that mental health care in prisons is in urgent need of further improvement.
“Most people in prison have some kind of mental health problem. The vast majority are not violent. They are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violence and intimidation.
“This tragic incident, however, is a terrible reminder of how important it is that people with mental health problems and personality disorders are offered the right care and support as early as possible when they get into the criminal justice system.
“Many prisoners with severe mental health problems should not be there at all. Screening for mental health problems should start at the police station. When people enter prison, they should be assessed properly at reception. Too often, this does not happen and people go unnoticed and untreated.
“London’s prison mental health services are struggling to cope with a system that makes their job difficult and with insufficient resources to meet the high level of need that they face. Investment is urgently needed to create a comprehensive prison mental health service and to give the new prison inreach teams the time and space to do their job.”
Deborah Coles co-director of INQUEST said: “The lack of accountability of the Prison Service and Home Office Ministers following
deaths in prison has created a culture of impunity and complacency. We endorse the family’s view that the death of Zahid Mubarek was `institutionalised murder’. This family’s long struggle for the truth has been vindicated by the devastating evidence and conclusions of the report which calls into question the judgement and motivation of previous Home Office Ministers who tried to resist a public inquiry.”
Paul Cavadino, Nacro chief executive: “At the time of Zahid Mubarek’s death Feltham was struggling to cope with excessive numbers of young prisoners. This was a result of this country’s punitive over-readiness to lock up young people. Many of the young prisoners in Feltham should have been given non-custodial sentences. This includes Zahid Mubarek, who should never have been sent to a young offender institution in the first place.
“In the six years since Zahid Mubarek’s death many key people in the Prison Service have worked hard to tackle racism in prisons. The Prison Service’s Race and Equalities Group now regularly sends teams into individual prisons to inspect and improve their race equality practice.
“However, the priority which different prisons give to tackling race issues still varies greatly. It is disturbingly dependent on the commitment of individual senior staff. The only way of ensuring that a tragedy like Zahid Mubarek’s murder never happens again is to require every governor to show that they are actively working to address race issues or to remove them from their post.”
Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, Frances Crook, said: “I welcome the Zahid Mubarek Inquiry report and hope that it will have a similar impact on the prison service as the Macpherson report had on the police service.
“I also welcome the recognition in the report that prisons are grossly overcrowded and cannot provide effective public protection. However, it is a shame that the terms of the inquiry were drawn so narrowly by the Home Office to prevent the Inquiry from examining the issue of the inappropriateness of short prison sentences.
“Zahid Mubarek was sent to prison for a minor offence when he should have been given a community sentence which would have allowed him to make amends for his offence, and where he would not have been exposed to the dangerous circumstances identified in the report which led to his tragic death. Prisons remain inherently racist and unsafe. For example, on a prison visit this week I saw a group of young Asian prisoners being held in a cell for their own protection in order to escape from racial abuse by other prisoners.
“Recent research published by the Howard League for Penal Reform exposed the futility of locking up so many young men in prisons which merely compound their problems and increase the likelihood of them committing further offences upon release, putting both the public and themselves at risk.”
Harry Fletcher, Assistant General Secretary of Napo said: “The publication of today’s inquiry is most welcome. It is unfortunate that it has taken six years to produce it, primarily because of Home Office resistance. It is essential that the Prison Service acts on the recommendations and introduces disciplinary procedures which are quick, fair and transparent. The government must deliver a joined-up strategy that ensures that mentally disturbed individuals are not placed in jails.”
Moira Fraser, Head of Policy at the Mental Health Foundation today said: “Sadly, the findings from the inquiry into the murder of Zahid Mubarek by Robert Stewart come as no surprise. His death was entirely preventable. The Mental Health Foundation endorses the inquiry’s findings on mental health care in prisons. A significant number of young men who are sent to prison have a mental health problem or personality disorder. But overcrowding and a shortage of staff skilled in dealing with mental health problems means that prisoners aren’t getting the professional care they need, and NHS services are often reluctant to provide in-patient beds for those who need them. Mental health care facilities and expertise must be made available to prisoners if we want to minimise the chances of this kind of incident happening again.”