Daniel Adewole was sixteen years old when he died alone in his prison cell. He was an inmate at Cookham Wood Young Offenders Institute. Daniel suffered from epilepsy, but had missed his last hospital appointment “because his family knew the date and place” and the prison were concerned this was a security risk. On the night of 4 July 2015, he had been incarcerated for nearly a month and was in his cell for the night. Two prison officers were tasked with patrolling the cells at regular intervals and checking that all prisoners were well and where they should be. When the officers reached Daniel’s cell, they saw a pile of bedclothes on the floor and no sign of Daniel. For some reason they concluded the cell must be empty, even though Daniel’s details were on the door, along with the abbreviation “MED-E” which denotes epilepsy. The prison officers went for a cigarette, then tallied up the number of prisoners seen on their round with the number expected. Realising they were one short, they returned to Daniel’s cell. They had a master key and could have gained entry immediately, but decided to fetch back up instead. One of the officers later said she feared Daniel was waiting behind the door, ready to attack her, but gave no reason why she believed this. Thirty-eight minutes had now passed since they noticed the bedclothes on the floor. When finally someone gained entry to the cell, it was too late to help Daniel, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. The inquest found Daniel died of natural causes, but raised several concerns about the procedures at the prison.
When I write these blog posts I like to include a little bit about the person’s life, their interests and family, etc, but I can’t do that for Daniel because the only information I can find about his is a few short reports about his death. The press have largely ignored him and the public do not seem to have any interest in his case. This is a recurring theme that I’ve noticed this week. There are several people whose stories I would like to have told but I simply could not find enough material to string together a whole post. Yet if you think of some white people who were murdered or died an untimely death, there are pages and pages of material, entire websites and wikipedia articles dedicated to them. I can’t even tell you why Daniel was in prison in the first place so instead I will tell you some statistics about young black people and crime:
- 2.7% of the UK population (10% in London) are black.
- 22% of people stopped and searched are black.
- 27% of young offenders in custody are black. This percentage has doubled since 2006.
- 66% of children arrested in London are black.
- 509 young black people have died in custody since 1991.
4Front is a youth-led project that aims to tackle the causes of youth offending and the outcomes of the criminal justice system for young black people.