In Prime Minister’s Question Time this week, Tony Blair was put on the spot regarding mentally disordered offenders.
The question, tabled by Charles Hendry, Conservative MP for Wealden, asked if the Prime Minister had seen the Government’s own statistics regarding mental health and prisoners and if he believed that prison was the right place to “keep, treat and rehabilitate people with a mental health illness.”
The Prime Minister responded: “I think that they have to be treated in the right way for them. They also have to be treated in a way that is conducive to public safety. The hon. Gentleman is entirely right in saying that many prisoners have severe mental health problems. Many prisoners have a series of problems to do with upbringing, drug abuse and so on. I hope he understands that there would be an immediate reaction the other way if we were releasing people from prison with severe mental health problems who could cause damage in the community.
“The point that the hon. Gentleman is making is absolutely right and we are acting upon it, to increase the help and support that we give to prisoners with mental health problems.”
In response to this Richard Jones, Public Affairs Manager of Hafal, said: “It is plain to see that the current prison system is not conducive to recovery from mental illnesses. More effective court diversion arrangements are needed as people suffering from a mental illness should not be forced into an unhelpful environment such as prison when they could be receiving help. We also believe that improved systems need to be put in place in order provide support to people with mental health problems throughout the justice system.”
To read Hafal’s report on the Criminal Justice System and Mentally Disordered Offenders, click here.