Research by The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health has found that the number of people detained in secure psychiatric wards in England reached a record high this year.
The charity found that 3,723 people were in detention on the wards in July 2007 and that between 1996 and 2006 the population of high and medium units rose by 45%.
The research, carried out for a factfile by the charity, also found that most people are admitted to secure hospitals from prison.
Sean Duggan, director of prisons and criminal justice at The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, said: “With prisoner numbers reaching record levels, we need viable alternatives for those with the most severe mental health problems. Currently, medium secure beds are the only option in many places. The number of people being detained in these units is growing year on year.”
He added: “These figures raise important questions for national policy. Are secure hospitals the best form of diversion from prison? Would community-based alternatives be better?”
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