A group of MPs today called for a “fundamental shift in thinking” on the treatment of mental health problems in UK prisons.
A report by the all-party parliamentary group on prison health called for a “massive investment” in prison mental health care, branding the current system “clearly dysfunctional”.
During visits to four prisons the group found a shortage of psychiatrists working in the prison medical service and problems transferring inmates to psychiatric hospitals.
The report demands a boost to community services to support people at risk of offending, and improvements to court diversion schemes and to the links between mental health services inside and outside prison.
It concludes: “Perhaps future generations will look back on our generation which has criminalised a large section of its mentally ill as being just as misguided as previous generations which exhibited the mentally ill as freaks.”
Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health chief executive Angela Greatley said the report should be the start of “a new type of debate about how we prevent people with severe mental health problems from going into prison and the value of offering those in prison a decent standard of care”.