BSHAA backs call for urgent review of deaf inmates’ treatment

BSHAA has backed a call from the UK Council on Deafness (UKCoD) for urgent action by HM Prison Service to improve the treatment of deaf inmates.
UKCoD’s call comes after a shocking new report on deaths in custody by the charity Inquest.

The report – Deaths in prison: A national scandal – analyses the findings from 61 prison inquests in England and Wales in 2018 and 2019. It details safety failures including mental and physical healthcare, communication systems, emergency responses, and drugs and medication.

One of the cases highlighted in the report – and reported by The Guardian – is the treatment of Tyrone Givans, who took his own life at HMP Pentonville in 2018. Tyrone was profoundly deaf but did not have his hearing aids with him when he was remanded into custody. On 8 February 2018, the morning after his arrival at Pentonville, Tyrone saw a prison doctor, who noted his deafness but did not refer him for new hearing aids, or try to get hold of his old ones. Tyrone took his own life on 26 February.

Lisa Smith, Tyrone’s former partner and mother to his daughter, is also deaf. “Putting him in prison without hearing aids,” she says, “was like putting him in a hole in the ground.”

BSHAA president Andrew Coulter said: “Clearly, there is much to be concerned about in the case of Tyrone Givans. We are dismayed that no-one in authority thought it was important to recognise an individual’s need for access to hearing support, and the profound impact this deprivation would have on a person’s wellbeing.

“It is perhaps a more extreme example of the poor value placed on hearing by society at large and by those responsible for understanding an individual’s welfare needs, despite overwhelming evidence of the important role hearing plays in enabling people to engage with their community and surroundings.”

Commenting on the report, Craig Crowley, chair of the UK Council on Deafness, said: “It’s bad enough that the deaf community has to face daily barriers and isolation because of the low levels of deaf awareness across society, and the lack of appropriate services which meet the tailored needs of deaf people. But for ignorant service providers to deprive us of our dignity through inhumane treatment is more than any community should ever have to endure.”

Read the full UKCoD statement.