Mental health patients who offend but pose no risk should be spared short-term jail terms and receive treatment instead, according to two-thirds of the public.
A poll found 64% of people thought people with mental illness who commit crimes punishable by less than 12 months in jail should receive a community punishment and mental health treatment.
The survey was carried out by polling company YouGov for the mental health charity Together, which runs a number of diversion schemes that provide alternatives to jail for offenders with mental health problems.
Together chief executive Liz Felton said: “Community punishments offer a viable, cost-effective and humane alternative that turns people’s lives around, and benefits both the offender and society as a whole.
“However, we need to see a commitment from the government to ensure that liaison and diversion schemes are properly resourced and widely available across the UK. Crucially, there also needs to be significant continued investment in community services, as this is key to providing credible alternatives to prison.”