Many people believe that prisoners do not get the same death-rights as someone who isn’t in custody. While it is an area that heavily depends on circumstance, knowing what will happen in the lead up to a death and what can and can’t occur to give you the knowledge to do the porridge.
Where can I die?
No matter where you die, be it home, hospice or Her Majesty’s Prison, your body will be taken to a mortuary. Sometimes this can be at an undertaker’s, hospice or hospital. When someone in custody dies in prison, the death is referred to a coroner. The coroner determines the cause of death and will register the death, allowing the body to be released for a funeral. If you die after having been released compassionately (if you a terminally ill) then there may be no need for a coroner as a doctor may already be present.
Who will tell my family?
If you die in prison then your family is notified by a family liaison officer. If, for example, you were terminally ill and your family didn’t know, then the prison officer with you will contact the family liaison officer and duty governor so that arrangements can be made to notify your next of kin.
After they have been told, the governor will let the other prison staff and prisoners know.
Do I get a funeral?
A prisoner still has a right to plan and decide what they want to happen their funeral. However, it is up to someone to execute these wishes. In some cases, the prison service can even help with some of the cost. It is part of The Family Liaison officer’s role to help a prisoner arrange a funeral, and on some occasions, they may. also attend.
The chaplain (Prison chapel) may also organise a separate memorial service at the prison so that there is an opportunity for other prisoners and staff so say good-bye.
Will there be an inquest?
When somebody dies in prison or while in prison care, then it is normal for there to be an inquest. This normally happens a while after you have died. Its purpose is to make sure that you were given the best possible care. It is decided that your care could have been better then prison staff can be educated and make changes. This way lives of future prisoners can be improved. An independent investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman also needs to happen after a death in custody. This is to make sure the prison has looked after you properly during your time in prison. If you were terminally ill it is to make sure they took care of you during your illness. The results of this investigation will be given to the coroner in charge of the inquest.
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