Letter: Fellow prisoners trained to prevent jail suicides in Swansea

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AFTER the suicide of a 15-year- old remand prisoner in 1990, staff and prisoners at Swansea saw the need for a shared approach to the reduction of suicide and self- harm ('The death of Prisoner DB3178', Sunday Review, 26 July). Carefully selected prisoners are now trained, by the local branch of the Samaritans, as 'Listeners' to provide support to distressed prisoners.

A Listener can demonstrate that someone cares which - for a prisoner contemplating suicide, who perhaps finds it difficult to relate to staff - can mean the difference between coping and going under. The incidence of serious self-harm has fallen by half during the 11 months that the Swansea scheme has been in operation. No one has died.

The Listener scheme chips away at assumptions of 'them' and 'us'. Listeners sit with governors at suicide-prevention meetings. And, most important, they allow the opportunity for confidential discussion between prisoners.

Brian Davies

West Glamorgan

Probation Service