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Bereaved Family ‘Involvement’ in (Prisoner) Death Investigations: Whose ‘Satisfaction’?

Tomczak, P. & Cook, E. ORCID: 0000-0002-7608-8702 (2022). Bereaved Family ‘Involvement’ in (Prisoner) Death Investigations: Whose ‘Satisfaction’?. Social and Legal Studies: an international journal, 32(2), pp. 294-317. doi: 10.1177/09646639221100480


A duty to investigate deaths in detention is enshrined within international legislation including Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). A core purpose of these investigations, following UK case law, is that bereaved families ‘have the satisfaction of knowing that lessons learned […] may save the lives of others.’ We highlight the striking absence of evidence illustrating the ‘satisfaction’ of bereaved families, utilising a case study of prisoner death investigations undertaken by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) and Coroners in England and Wales. Drawing on data from semi-structured interviews with 26 stakeholders, we explore what may produce familial ‘satisfaction’ and question who is satisfied by prisoner death investigations. Our analysis demonstrates that bereaved family ‘satisfaction’ was regularly spoken about by investigators and invoked to legitimise investigations despite limited evidence thereof. In conclusion, we highlight how the Ombudsman and Coroners should reconsider their practices to better satisfy families and manage expectations.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright © 2022
Publisher Keywords: families, death, bereavement, prisons, inquests, suicide, detention
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
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