MPs call for “massive investment” in prison mental health care

A report by the UK Government All-Party Parliamentary Group On Prison Health yesterday (7 November) called for a “massive investment” in prison mental health care.

The group, which visited four prisons including HMP Cardiff, found a shortage of psychiatrists working in prisons, as well as problems transferring inmates to psychiatric hospitals.

Branding the current system as “clearly dysfunctional”, the All-Party Group is calling for more support for people at risk of offending, as well as improvements in court diversion schemes and links between mental health services in and outside prisons.

Fabian Hamilton, Chair of the All-Party Group and Labour MP for Leeds North East said: “Court diversion and liaison schemes must be improved so that offenders with mental health problems are diverted away from the criminal justice system to care and treatment from the health and social care sectors.

“Where a prosecution is to be pursued, relevant information about an offender’s mental condition must be made available to the courts.”

Bill Walden-Jones, Chief Executive of Welsh Mental Health charity Hafal, welcomed the report. He said: “Mental illness in prisons is a growing problem. That is why we have secured funding for the appointment of a Mentally Disordered Offender Development Officer who will work closely with the criminal justice agencies in Wales – including prisons – in order to improve diversion schemes and develop effective support services for mentally disordered offenders.

“Hafal continues to lobby the Welsh Assembly Government for funding for further posts and this report clearly supports our case.”

The Mental Health Problem in UK HM Prisons – a report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prison Health is available from Kate Archer (Secretariat): kate@butlerkellyltd.co.uk