Campaigners have urged the government to press ahead with plans to create a national network of specialist criminal justice mental health teams to prevent vulnerable people being locked up needlessly.
A Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health briefing released today said immediate action ought to be taken to implement the key recommendations of the Bradley Report, an independent review into the experience of people with mental health problems or learning disabilities in the criminal justice system.
The report was particularly concerned at the disproportionate number of people with mental health problems being jailed.
Sean Duggan, the charity’s director of prisons and criminal justice, said Bradley’s proposals to divert people with mental health problems away from jail by setting up criminal justice mental health teams would be a “vast improvement” on the system now. Community mental health services could work out £20,000 cheaper than prison for each offender.
“Short prison stays have a particularly disastrous impact on people with mental health problems and their families,” said Duggan. “They are expensive and ineffective.
“We call on the government to take action now to ensure the Bradley Report brings about the sea-change that needs to happen if we are to stop wasting taxpayers’ money in imprisoning people who can safely be kept out of custody.”
Mental health provision
Duggan also supported Bradley’s recommendation to review mental health provision in the youth justice system while criticising the review’s lack of focus on the needs of ethnic minorities.
“But this should not stand in the way of action being taken now to divert young people from custody to effective community services,” he added. “And we must avoid the trap of implementing the Bradley Report ‘colour blind’ and overlooking the specific needs of people from a wide range of communities.”
The government is expected to publish a national strategy in reponse to the Bradley Report in October.
Prison Reform Trust highlights mental health and drug concerns