Pauline’s Story

Introduction: Tippa Naphtali
4WardEver Campaign

The following article was originally put together as a tribute to Pauline Campbell in March 2006, to be featured on the 4WardEver Campaign website.

The following was written by Pauline at our request, and we were honoured to give this strong and courageous woman a platform to share her views, and encourage others to become active.


Listen to the BBC Women’s Hour interview >

Pauline Campbell
Trustee of the Howard League for Penal Reform
Awarded the 2005 Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize

My 18-year-old daughter, Sarah, died while on ‘suicide watch’ in the so-called care of HMP and YOI Styal, Cheshire, in January 2003. She experienced Styal’s brutal regime for just 24 hours before dying of prescription anti-depressant drug poisoning.

Strip searched twice on arrival at the jail, she was taken to the segregation (punishment) block, and isolated, with sensory deprivation (i.e. no television, no radio, and no-one to talk to).

Despite knowing that she had ingested an overdose, prison staff (including a nurse) walked out of the cell, locked the door, and left her alone. She vomited blood and vomit while alone in the cell. There was a delay of 40 minutes before an ambulance was summoned. On arrival at the prison gates, it was held up for eight minutes before being allowed in.

In that brief 24 hours in the ‘care’ of Styal, Sarah was vomiting, fitting, suffered several cardiac arrests, and was bleeding from the nose and mouth when she died. The jury did not return a “suicide” verdict, but said a “failure in the duty of care” had contributed to her death, and there had been “avoidable delays” in summoning the ambulance. Three years after the death of my only child, there is still no formal acceptance by the Home Office that they have a responsibility for Sarah’s death.

In April 2004, incensed by the continuing suffering and deaths of women inmates, I decided to increase pressure on the Government by engaging in ‘direct action.’

Each time an apparently self-inflicted death is reported; I organise and lead a demonstration outside the prison. Sixteen protests have been held. I have been arrested on ten occasions, handcuffed, locked in police cells, and put before the criminal courts. But I remain undeterred.

When demonstrations take place, I stop the prison vans as they attempt to enter the prison. It is symbolic, and is saying: “No, you must not bring women to this jail. It’s unsafe. There’s been a death here.” Every demonstration has received media coverage, raising public awareness about the suffering and deaths of women prisoners. Several protests have featured in regional television news bulletins; two were included in BBC television documentaries.

I would draw attention to the following:

• Women are being detained in prisons that cannot meet their human needs. Breaches of Article 2 (right to life), and Article 3 (inhumane and degrading treatment) continue to shame the Prison Service and the Home Office. A particularly shocking example was highlighted by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, reporting on Brockhill Prison, May 2005: “night sanitation system grossly inadequate, with women on occasions reduced to using plastic bags and rubbish bins.

• The incarceration of women convicted of non-violent offences is cruel and unnecessary. Two-thirds of women prisoners are mothers; innocent children are suffering as a result of the needless imprisonment of their mums. Community sentences (suitable for non-violent offenders) are usually more effective and cost less. Nine out of ten women prisoners are convicted of non-violent offences, which begs the question: why are they being sent to prison?

• When Labour took office (1997), 2,629 women were imprisoned. The current figure is 4,428 (03.03.06), yet there has been no equivalent increase in the number of women committing crimes, or of women committing more serious offences.

Since Sarah’s death, a further 29 women prisoners have died. It is time to say ‘the age of prisons is over.’

Rembrance Archives >

About Tippa Naphtali

I am currently a partner in Naphtali & Associates, an informal network of VCO champions established in 2003, helping to develop social enterprises, business ownership and affordable services by and for local people. I am also an active campaigner for police, prison and mental health reform particularly in relation to deaths and abuses in custody.

Posted on 15/05/2008, in History with Pauline. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Drury Lincoln

    People should stand up and acknowledge what this woman achieved driven by the grief of her loss.
    Joe-public needs to wake up… there’s more to life than Coronation Street & Britain’s Got Talent!!

    Drury Lincoln

  2. Matt Collins

    Obviously a woman of great substance, power and grit…. Such a loss to a society in pain!

    Matt Collins

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