Concern over mentally ill inmates at South Wales prison

The presence of mentally ill prisoners in HMP Parc, Wales’s only privately run jail, is a ‘constant concern’, according to a new report.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) said it was also concerned that there is no psychiatrist in HMP Parc, near Bridgend in South Wales, specialising in young people with mental illness.

The report also commended Group 4 Securicor (G4S) on recent improvements at the 1,100-capacity prison.

The IMB, which monitors the state of prison premises and the treatment of inmates, issued the report covering the period between March 2006 and February 2007.

According to its findings, there were more than 80 referrals of prisoners with mental healthcare needs between March and November 2006.

Both the IMB and G4S voiced an ‘urgent need’ for a dedicated ‘young offenders own interest’ unit in south Wales.

John Homfray, chair of Parc’s Independent Monitoring Board, said the prison’s 15-place health care facility was used like a ‘cupboard’ to store mentally ill patients.

He said: “If somebody goes on a normal wing and is found to be mentally ill – and therefore can’t cope properly on that wing or cause terrible disruption – then they get transferred to health care.

“The health care facility is basically to deal with acute problems that arise in the prison, so then you get a warehousing situation in this very tightly-run, small, facility and they stay there.

“Because the prison copes well with them, to the extent that they’re not causing any trouble elsewhere, they just stay there, like in a cupboard.”

The report also highlights the ineffective arrangements for the deportation of foreign national prisoners at the end of their sentences in the UK.

However, the IMB report commends G4S on the ‘many improvements’ at Parc since the chief inspector of prison’s visit in January 2006 and hopes the progress can be maintained with the anticipated expansion of the prison in the next few years.

G4S has set a target date of 2009 for a new block housing up to 450 inmates at Parc.

Rebecca Remigio, Senior Consultant in Criminal Justice and Secure Services at Hafal, the Welsh charity for people with severe mental illness and their carers, said: “I don’t think we can call ourselves a civilised society if we continue to lock up people with a severe mental illness – people with psychosis should not be in a prison cell.

“They should be assessed and given access to treatment as soon as possible to divert them away from the Criminal Justice route, which not suitable for them.

“Government influences sentencing policy and we need a magistracy and a judiciary that are more informed about mental illness.”