Young offender found dead in cell


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The Independent Online

A 15-year-old boy has died after being found in his cell at a young offenders institution, the Prison Service said today.

Alex Kelly, who was serving 10 months for burglary and theft from a vehicle, was found at Cookham Wood young offenders institution in Kent on Tuesday and taken to hospital where he died last night.

Kelly, who was on an open suicide and self-harm document, is the second young offender to die within a week.

Jake Hardy, who was serving six months for affray and common assault, was found at Hindley young offenders institution in Wigan on Friday and taken to hospital where he died on Tuesday.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: "HMYOI Cookham Wood prisoner Alex Kelly was found in his cell at approximately 8.30pm on Tuesday January 24.

"Staff attempted resuscitation, paramedics attended and he was taken to outside hospital but was pronounced dead at 7.30pm on Wednesday January 25.

"Every death in custody or the community is a tragedy for families and has a profound effect on staff and other offenders.

"The National Offender Management Service (Noms) is committed to reducing the numbers of deaths in custody.

"Each death is subject to an investigation and, since 2004, these have been undertaken by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.

"Additionally for young people who die in custody there will be a serious case review, commissioned by the local safeguarding board.

"Strenuous efforts are made to learn from each death and improve our understanding and procedures for caring for prisoners, including young offenders."

A spokeswoman for the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) said: "We are very sorry to be informed of the death of Alex Kelly and extend our sympathies to his family and friends, whom we will involve in our investigation if they wish, and try to answer any questions they may have.

"Our independent investigation will aim to identify the full circumstances of the death and whether there were any failings in Alex Kelly's care.

"Where possible we will identify lessons to be learned and make recommendations to the Prison Service to help prevent similar deaths in future. We also share any findings with the coroner to assist with his inquiries."

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust campaign group, said: "Lessons must be learnt from the tragic deaths within one week of two children in prison.

"Above all, we need to become 'wise before the event' and avoid locking up our most vulnerable young people in our bleakest institutions.

"Compared to care or treatment settings, low staffing levels and lack of resources in young offender institutions make it very difficult for staff to respond to youngsters in extreme distress."