Govt plans for mentally ill prisoners unlikely to be achieved

Research by Queen Mary University of London has suggested that Government plans to divert more mentally ill people from the criminal justice system and into mental health services are unlikely to be achieved.

Researchers estimate that there are over 8,000 prisoners with schizophrenia and other psychoses in prisons in England and Wales. They state that if transferred to hospital, treatment for these patients would have to be in conditions of security. However the sheer number of mentally ill prisoners would “overwhelm” the medium secure beds available.

The study, which included all 131 prisons in England and Wales, found that only 1 in 10 psychotic prisoners are currently receiving treatment for their illnesses in prison and less than a third had ever been treated in a psychiatric hospital. Over a third said they had never received any psychiatric treatment, which meant it was very unlikely they would receive treatment and follow-up after their release.

In December 2007, the government commissioned Lord Bradley to look into diverting people with mental health problems and learning disabilities away from the criminal justice system.

Professor Jeremy Coid who led the study said: “Psychiatric and prison mental health services are failing severely mentally ill prisoners. Our research suggests that the recommendations of the Bradley Report to divert more mentally ill persons out of the criminal justice system and into mental health services is unlikely to be achieved.”

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