Record high numbers of self-inflicted deaths and incidents of self-harm in prisons are a damning indictment of the current state of the mental health of those in prison and the prison environment overall. More excuses are not good enough. The Ministry of Justice, HM Prison and Probation Service and NHS England have a duty of care to those in prison, yet do not know where they are starting from, how well they are doing or whether their current plans will be enough to succeed.
The current level of self-inflicted deaths and self-harm incidents in prisons is appalling and the system for improving the mental health of prisoners isn’t working as it should. Government does not have reliable or up-to-date measure of the number of prisoners who have mental health problems and existing screening procedures are insufficient to adequately identify those who need support and treatment.
People in prison are more likely to suffer from mental health problems than those in the community. Yet prisoners are less able to manage their mental health conditions because most aspects of their day-to-day life are controlled by the prison. These difficulties are being exacerbated by a deteriorating prison estate, long-standing lack of prison staff and the increased prevalence of drugs in prison.
Improving the mental health of prisoners is a difficult and complex task, but it is an essential step to reducing reoffending and ensuring that those who are released from prison can rebuild their lives in the community. Despite this, Government’s efforts to improve the mental health of those in prison so far have been poorly co-ordinated, and information is still not shared across the organisations involved, and not even between community and prison GP services.
11 December 2017