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Mentally ill need help not prison

24th October 2007

The Prisons Inspectorate has warned that too many people with mental health problems are ending up in jail.

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A new report says what they need instead is specialist care.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers said that many prisoners with mental health disorders did need to be in prison but the institutions were currently unable to provide them with the care they needed.

Inadequate screening on arrival in prison coupled with poor communication between agencies and general prison overcrowding made matters worse.

The inspectorate report added that a true alternative was vital if the ongoing problem was to be tackled successfully.

Ms Owers said: “Prisons can provide better and more focused care for those who need to be there. But they will only do so effectively if there is sufficient alternative provision for those who should not be there, and effective community support for those who leave prison.�

However, the document also stressed that any alternative would also have to ensure the public was protected at the same time as the patient’s needs were met.

Sean Duggan of the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health said current staffing levels in prison mental health care were only a third of what was needed.

The Ministry of Justice welcomed the report and said the department was “working to improve the areas identified in the report.�

A spokesman said reception screening is currently being reviewed with work under way on guidance to help improve the operation of court diversion schemes for mentally ill offenders.

 

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