In this essay I will be identifying the problems with the criminal justice system, the members involved with the preventable death of Zahid Mubarek and what could have been done to prevent the death. I will also be discussing the importance of communication between different institution including hospitals and other prisons. I am also going to discuss the discrimination found in the criminal justice system. I will be using the Keith report volume 1 and 2(2006) as well as the report of a review of the implementation of the Zahid Mubarek Inquiry recommendations (2014) to discuss the death into Zahid Mubarek.
In the year 2000, Zahid Mubarek was sentenced to 90 days detention in a young offender’s institution. Zahid was known to the police due to small crimes he had committed over a 10-month period, he was given multiple opportunities to a reasonable community sentences, however he failed to turn up too many of the meetings. Eventually he was no longer given these opportunities and instead given a 90-day detention for over 11 offenses, at Feltham. While many believed that he should have not been given a custodial sentencing in the first place, his continuous failure to turn up to his meetings and session lead the court to this being the only option (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, 2014).
Robert Stewart, on the other hand, was a difference case. From the age of 13, Stewart had been cautioned many times by the police. Stewart was expelled from his first secondary school due to setting fire to the sports hall, this wasn’t unusual behaviour for Stewart as he was known for setting fire to items and for anti-social behaviour. He was cautioned by a police officer for setting fire to a shed in the town centre, none of this was put on his criminal record. By the year 2000, Stewart had 18 convictions of 70 offences. When Stewart was sent to Hindley young offenders institute, he developed a friendship with fellow inmate Maurice Travis and the two became obsessively close with each other. A year later, Travis was convicted of murder of another inmate while they were at Stoke Heath young offenders’ institution. This should have been the first major indication that Stewart could also be potentially dangerous considering how close and alike him and Travis were.
Keith (2006) suggested that many of the factors that lead to Zahid’s death was the lack of communication between staff members and different institution. When Stewart wrote a racial letter, the officers from the lapwing at Feltham intercepted this letter but failed to inform the security officers about it. This wasn’t the first time that Stewart had wrote a threatening letter, A women from a chatline operator reported being harassed and racist messages being sent to her from Stewart. Also no one from the security department checked Stewarts security profile when he arrived back at Feltham. If they did check the file, they would have known about the violent attacks at his previous prison and then he would have been watched more.
The officers at Feltham are not the only ones to blame. At Stewarts previous prisons, many of the violent acts or weird behaviours were not always documented and therefore cannot be acted upon when he was moved to different institutes. The officers were also apparently unaware of his racist attitudes and took no interest when Zahid asked to move cells. Although there was no proof that Stewart was racist, if the documents from previous prison that stated he was a risk were sent over to Feltham and read through properly, then he may have been put into a single cell.
Keith described Feltham to be in a ‘meltdown’ which was not aware to the prison headquarters. The young offenders institute was unable to cope with the number of prisoners that was being hold there due to the lack of untrained staff. The prison had no strategy and the staff were demoralised due to them knowing that no improvements are going to be done to Feltham. If the staff that handled Stewart weren’t so demoralised than they may have picked up alarming things such as his religious tattoos over his face and they may have spent more time looking over his files or reporting racist letters. All these factors could have made the officers realise that he shouldn’t be sharing a cell with a man of a different racial background.
When Stewart was at HMP Hindley, a nurse called Ms Martin suspected that he had a personality disorder and had also feared he would commit a murder due to his friend in which he was obsessed with, murdered another inmate. It was likely that Stewart was involved with this murder, however there was no evidence suggesting this. Ms Martin said that she did not want to alarm the prion officers in case Stewart was labelled, however, she still noted that Stewart and Travis were dangerous, but no officer took any notice. If the prison officers acknowledged this suspected personality disorder and her worries of him also committing a murder than the chances of Stewart being put into a shared cell when he moved prison may have been unlikely.
The health care centre at Hindley noticed that Stewart had been to see a psychiatrist at the age of 10, but made no attempt to get a copy of the report. This is very unprofessional for a health care centre and getting copies of previous medical examination could have helped them assess and examine Stewart easier. Considering Stewart was put on Self-harm watch and showed obvious signs of suffering from a mental illness, the centre was quick to dismiss that he’s got mental health issues and sent him back. Even after Stewart showed worrying signs of mental health issues such as swallowing batteries, Hindley staff still failed to acknowledge that he may be suffering.
A probation officer at Hindley that was assessing Stewarts behaviour, wrote in her report that Stewart had ‘no sense of the seriousness of the arson, and no empathy for the victims of his offences’ (Keith 2006, p,142. 14.8). On her report she regarded him as a risk to society, however at this point she did not know of the stabbing that he was involved with at his previous prison. This shows that valuable information has failed to be transferred from one institute to the next, this information is virtual for the prison staff and the probation staff to ensure that their prisoners and staff to not get harmed. If Hindley had known about his involvement with a stabbing, then they would have been able to keep a closer eye on him and file a more accurate risk report.
Hindley also had a number a shared cell, the probation officer Ms O’Mara believed that those who are risk of self-harm should be in shared cells to reduce the risk. However, they should have focused more on whether the prisoner posed a threat to the cell mate as well. Due to Stewarts previous involvement with a violent act, he was not suitable for a shared cell. This is a clear indication that the Hindley and Feltham did not give it any thought that Stewart was potentially dangerous if put into a shared cell. A claim like this should have been well documented at the time of the murder in Stoke Heath and this could have changed the outcome at Feltham.
Another probation officer at Hindley called Patrick Dawson, carried out another risk assessment for Stewarts trial and sentencing for arson. He used a very outdated tool called form RM1, which Mr Dawson could identify Stewart as being a considerable risk to prison staff as well as other inmates or himself. However, this was only the case because of arson, and there could have been a risk of fire. This assessment should have been followed by the completion of a more complex tool called form RM2, but Mr Dawson does not recall ever completing one. If I was Stewarts probation officer I would have made sure that every bit of information that suggests he can be harmful was written down in a sophisticated report, to ensure the safety of staff and prisoners.
While Stewart was at Altcourse, he was again assessed by Mr Kinealy who was a registered nurse. He only saw Stewart for about an hour and a half and concluded in his medical report that he most likely has a personality disorder due to his lack of remorse, feeling, empathy and insight. However, when it came to deciding on whether Stewart was a risk to others, Mr Kinealy conclusion was that he was not a risk. He stated, ‘if he had thought that Stewart was a risk to others, he would have said so in Stewart’s medical record, completed a security information report to that effect, and referred Stewart to a psychiatrist’ (The Keith Report (2006), p,163. 16.15).
Mr Kinealy, however, never read Stewarts security files, he said that he was not allowed to read them which seems unlikely as they are a vital aspect when assessing a prisoner. If it was the case that he was unable to read the files, then here was nothing stopping he from asking Mr Farrell what was on the files. Mr Kinealy informed Keith that if he had known about the stabbing the he certainly wouldn’t have said that he wasn’t a risk. Mr Kinealy was till at blame for concluding that Stewart wasn’t a risk, However, Mr Farrell did mention that Stewart came up in a conversation he had with Mr Kinealy and suggested for him to speak with him. Therefore, Mr Farrell may not have had time to deeply inform Mr Kinealy of Stewarts previous behaviours.
One incident that happened at Altcourse should have been an indicator to the police to not let him share a cell or have moveable furniture in the cell. While he was at Altcourse, himself and his cell mate armed themselves with broken pieces of furniture and threatened two other prisoners. Due to the hatred he had for people from Liverpool and most of Altcourse’s population was from Liverpool, he was transferred again. The incident was not documented onto the security system and no other prison knew that he had used furniture as weapons, if it was documented, Hindley and Feltham may have been more careful and overserved Stewart more.
A couple of months after the death of Zahid Mubarek, a racial examination was taken place at Feltham. Mr Butt and his team started their investigation on the 22nd September 2000, and they wanted to see the extent in which Feltham was racist. Unfortunately, they could not get the full co-operation of the institute, but from what they saw in the files and from the interviews, it was clear that the prison was in fact racist. Mr Butt found that racism existed both covertly and overly in white prisoners as well as the staff and was directed at minority prisoners and staff. The Butts report suggested that many found subtle ways of being racist without raising alarms. He also suggested that the discrimination only became apparently when the ethnic monitoring showing worrying trends throughout the institute. There also a subtle racist claim that the prison officers deliberately placed white inmates with British minority ethnic prisoners in the same cells.
He investigated the number of black prisoners that were sent to segregation after a fight compared to the number of white prisoners which was indeed disproportionate. He also found that black staff underwent constant torment form other staff members. Instead of the prison discouraging racial jokes and diversity, they are in a way encouraging it. Prisoners are getting away with being racist and ‘learning’ these behaviours from the prison guards. This just shows that the criminals justice system is in fact institutionally racist. Another example of institutional racism is the Stephen Lawrence case in which a black male was murdered in 1993 and the police made his family suspects instead of the victims. The Stephen Lawrence inquiry stated this about racism in institutions,
“It persists because of the failure of the organisation openly and adequately to recognise and address its existence and causes by policy, example and leadership. Without recognition and action to eliminate such racism it can prevail as part of the ethos or culture of the organisation. It is a corrosive disease.” (The Keith Report (2006). p,49. 3.10)
This leads to Keith coming up with a couple are reasons why the organisation is failing. He believed that Feltham did not train their staff properly and did not inform them that racial comments are wrong. Although Feltham provided race relations training that was mandatory only 30% of staff had received the training and 10% of the supervisory staff. Not only was the staff not trained in race relations, many were not trained in how to deal with violence in the prison. Only night that Zahid was murdered, there was only one guard on each unit. The guard in swallow, Mr Nicholson, wasn’t a trained prison guard, but an operational support grade. He had only been on the job for 10 months and was in charge of 59 prisoners. This is alarming already. Considering he’d only been working for 10 months and wasn’t even a trained prison guard, he should have had someone of a higher rank with him.
Throughout the night, the guards must flick a switch at either end of the unit to record that he has patrolled the area. This must be done twice every hour. However, if the guard timed it right, they could get an hour to an hour and a half breaks, also they could get away with not patrolling the whole first floor if the flick two witches, unfortunately this means they’ll miss cell 38 which held Zahid and Stewart. The patrol prints outs of that night show that Mr Nicholson did not follow the operational order. The prints outs showed the Mr Nicholson missed two periods in which he should have patrolled, and these were the times that Stewart attacked Zahid.
Mr Nicholson was alerted by the buzzer being pressed in cell 38, He assumed that they needed toilet paper so made his way down to the cell. When he opened the cell door and saw Stewart standing there with a piece of wood and Zahid covered in blood, he froze. Unfortunately, he had not been trained in what to do when a situation like this occurs. He did in fact know that it was not safe to go into a cell containing two inmates. Instead of calling for help using his radio like he should have, he went back to his office to call. The blame cannot be put onto Mr Nicholson, even if he followed the correct operational order, it wouldn’t have stopped Stewart from doing what he did. If he had called through his radio, there is a chance that back up may have arrived quicker and Mr Nicholson would have bene able to keep an eye on Stewart in case he inflicted more damaged to Zahid.
Keith stated that he was overall unimpressed at the organisation of Stewarts files. They were not in chronological order or put into specific folders. If someone needed information on Stewart they would have had a very hard time finding what they were looking for. Many important documents that suggested Stewart was a risk and contained worrying behaviour that he showed were in his main file which was the largest and was too bulky to expect anyone to go through and find them.
The death of Zahid Muberak should not have happened. Prisons and young offender’s institutes main goals if to help rehabilitate and change prisoners as well as dealing with the safety of both staff and in mate. If each institute that Robert Stewart was at documented every concerning behaviour he showed, the medical examinations were done properly and sent with him, and prison staff made effort with looking through his files then he never would have been put into a cell with Zahid. Prison headquarters need to make sure all their staff are trained and ready for any situation that may occur and make sure they have proportionated staff to prisoner ratio. A prison cannot function properly and be safe if its overfilling with prisoners but do not have the right number of staff to control them.