A report by the Prison Reform Trust has found that prisoners with a mental illness are likely to reoffend because they do not receive appropriate treatment.
The Trust’s survey of Independent Monitoring Boards from 57 prisons and Young Offender Institutions across England and Wales revealed a system under pressure and struggling to respond to the complex needs of people “many of whom are in the wrong place”.
The survey, which was published this week, stated that:
• “vulnerable” offenders needed housing, healthcare and drug treatment on release to stop them committing more crimes;
• more than half of the boards said they saw prisoners who were “too ill” to be behind bars;
• many prisons lack the resources to assess prisoners’ mental health needs when they arrived and specialist staff to offer treatment;
• prisoners with learning disabilities are excluded from day-to-day prison activities;
• not one of the boards reported that families were involved in decisions about mental health care as a matter of course.
The report, “Too Little, Too Late: An Independent Review of Unmet Mental Health Need in Prison”, recommended new funding for learning disability specialists and new court and police liaison schemes to aid the 72% of male and 70% of female sentenced prisoners that the Trust says suffer from two or more mental health disorders.
The survey prompted widespread comment, much of which had a tone of dismay at the findings.
Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “This unique report raises searing questions about why we lock up our most ill people in our most bleak institutions.
“Why waste time and public money building bigger and bigger prisons when it is clear that our jails are full of people in urgent need of proper mental health and social care?”
Paul Cavadino, Chief Executive of Nacro, the crime reduction charity, expressed a similar viewpoint.
He said: “Jailing mentally ill people in such numbers is a disgrace to a civilised society.
“It is absurd that we make prisons available nationally for courts to lock up mentally ill offenders yet we do not have a national system of schemes to divert them from courts and police stations into health and social care.”
To read the full report please visit: http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/temp/TOOspLITTLEspFINALspVERSIONlo.pdf