Friday, September 30, 2011

Suicide and Savings

One of the very few prison service initiatives that has my support is the Listeners scheme.
Some years ago it was noted that there are prisoners who, by virtue of their personal qualities, tended to be called upon by their peers to provide emotional support.

Recognising the potential of such prisoners to reduce the rates of self-harm or suicide, the prison service joined with the Samaritans to train prisoner volunteers to offer Samaritans-type support to those in crisis.  In every prison, these volunteer prisoners are available 24 hours a day to help those who need support.  These prisoners do this for no pay and at a considerable emotional cost to themselves.

There is now a rumour that the prison service would like to cut the Listeners as part of the national economy drive.  Quite how costly a voluntary scheme may be is a puzzle others are better able to answer.

The suicide rate in prison is many times higher than the comparable community demographic.  This is partly a result of a penal philosophy which is punitive and degrading.  Efforts must be made by any decent society to see that punishments do no lead to suicide.

The Listeners are a low-cost effort to mitigate the pains of imprisonment.  To reduce this service would be contemplative and signify a return to institutional indifference to the deaths of people in prison.


  1. "The Listener" scheme is indeed one of the few positives within the walled community. The self-harm rate is indeed higher amongst the prisoner population. The trigger points that corners the individual into self-harm spiral are unique to the given society. Once the steel door shuts in the evening the individual prisoner's world shrinks further still and the system, already lacking a human face and feelings, cares very little for life or limb. The introduction of the "Listener" scheme added a little bit of support to those who need a listening ear. To say that it is to be reduced as a money saving measure sounds at odds with the reality of prison life. How would the system prevent preventable deaths in the prison community?
    I think the real issues at stake here could be the old chest nut "security" reasoning. Listeners are viewed by the staff as potential security breachers.
    Prisons with high self-harm incidents, Armley for example, are actively promoting Listeners. The local prisons are in the high risk self-harm postioned and therefore might differ from the prison Ben is in.
    Anyway, the point Ben is making sets the mind thinking and thus displaying Ben's value. If only we set aside 5 minutes a day........

  2. Oops, forgot the link:

  3. Great for running around getting your deals done and passing contraband too. Also if you were in a game of doubles on the playstation at ascotiation and you want to carry on....."Guv' can i see the listener please"

  4. The above poster has clearly never been the person crying at two in the morning, or the person receiving the call at 2am. Such services are important and not a joke.

  5. these services are needed but unfortunatly are not avaliable in all prisions. Insn't this a prision officers job as well.

  6. Who listened to you?


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