Immediate improvement demanded for young people in prison

The Prison Reform Trust has called for immediate action to
improve conditions in prison for young people.

A new report from the trust calls for the setting of a prison
service key performance indicator in order to measure length of
time in a cell, and for staff to be trained in screening for
potential mental health problems and promoting positive mental

It also calls for mental health assessments to include
information on substance use, and for more provision of community
mental health services to meet the needs of young people with
emotional and mental health problems. Young people should be placed
in environments with the emphasis on care and treatment in small
scale settings rather than large scale institutions, says the

According to the trust’s research, more than 90 per cent
of imprisoned young offenders suffer from personality disorder,
psychosis, neurotic disorder or substance misuse.

The report, ‘Troubled Inside: Responding to the Mental Health
Needs of Children and Young People’, has been endorsed by the
NSPCC, the Association for Professionals in Services with
Adolescents, the Standing Committee on Youth Justice, the National
Children’s Bureau and other groups.

Finola Farrant, author of the report, said: “There is clear
evidence that too many young people who have mental health problems
end up in prison, and that the experience of prison can damage
their mental health.”

The report also claims a third of young people in prison have
spent time in local authority care, more than 60 per cent left
school before they were 16-years-old, and nearly 30 per cent of
young women in prison have been sexually abused.

Juliet Lyon, director of the trust, said: “Vulnerable children
and young people need secure care and treatment not punishment and

“Working together, the department of health and the home office
must act now to introduce earlier assessment and intervention for
troubled children in the community, respond to the largely unmet
mental health needs of disturbed young people in Young Offender
Institutions and transfer those who are severely mentally ill from
prisons to health settings.”

A Youth Justice Board spokesperson said: “The Youth Justice
Board recognises there are problems in young people accessing
mental health services and is concerned to improve this. We look
forward to reading the report, and welcome the Prison Reform
Trust’s recognition of our determination to improve health
services for young people.”



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