UK: security firm to monitor prisoner vulnerability at Kilmarnock Prison in bid to prevent suicide and self harm

A life-saving tool aimed at assessing the vulnerability of prisoners’ mental health has been developed at Kilmarnock Prison. The vulnerability prediction tool (VPT) recognises changes in the behaviours of prisoners which may indicate a drop in mental health. Changes in behaviour are highlighted to prison officers – allowing them to intervene before a prisoner self-harms or attempts suicide.

The tool, developed by security firm Serco, tracks prisoners’ daily activities such as meal times, family and legal visits, education and work.

The activities are stored in Serco’s custodial management system (CMS) which is an electronic database that establishes “normal” patterns of behaviour for each prisoner.

Prisoners who are seen to withdraw from normal behaviour can be highlighted as more at risk of self harm or suicide. The information about the prisoners is presented to Serco’s prison officers in risk priority order.

And all prisoners are allocated a prison keyworker as part of new ministry of justice offender management guidance.

A prisoner will remain on the “at risk” list until their behaviour has returned to normal after support mechanisms are put in place.

Wyn Jones, Serco’s custodial operations director, said: “The vulnerability prediction tool is a simple but effective way of providing early warning that allows officers to intervene and improves the chances of preventing a tragedy.”

“It is very easy for a vulnerable prisoner to let their behaviour spiral out of control and it is difficult for prison officers to know each individual prisoner well enough to recognise when one of them withdraws from the regime.As a result, traditionally prisoners are often only recognised as being at risk and supported once they have threatened or attempted suicide or self-harm. We think this new tool can make a real difference for prisoners.”

Serco has also developed an ‘anniversaries trigger tool’ which logs significant dates in a prisoner’s life such as the death of a relative, failure of a relationship or important sentence dates.

These dates may weigh heavily on a prisoner’s mind and can help officers to understand the reasons for the changes in behaviour.

The VPT is primarily targeted at prisoners who are deliberately self-isolating.

However, the tool can also help to identify those who have difficulty engaging with the regime through no fault of their own.

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