Concern over mentally ill inmates
posted on Dec 5, 2008
Prison is inappropriate for people with severe mental health problems, according to a report from Scotland's chief inspector of prisons.
Dr Andrew McLellan said there were at least 315 prisoners in Scotland's jails who had a severe and enduring mental illness, 4.5% of the prison population. Dr McLellan said the number of inmates with such problems was rising. He highlighted a number of concerns including a variation in forms of available treatment between prisons.
The chief inspector's report also warned that imprisonment could exacerbate the mental health problems of some prisoners. The most common mental health problems among prisoners were found to be schizophrenia and bi-polar affective disorder. Dr McLellan pointed to a "greater reliance on medication than would be desirable" and the use of segregation cells - despite some inmates claiming this can make mental health problems worse. The report called for the use of segregation units to be ended.
Dr McLellan said: "Prisoners with severe and enduring mental health problems can cause problems for staff and for other prisoners. They are resource-intensive, can cause disruption, and lead to a charged atmosphere." He added that these problems were "exacerbated by overcrowding". Dr McLellan said there were some "gaps in the identification of mental health problems and needs in prison". He acknowledged that improvements had been made in, for example, the understanding of mental health issues in prisons. But he said: "Their primary need is their mental health and the appropriate place to address this is in a hospital." The report recommended that alternative environments which can provide the necessary treatment and care for such prisoners should be identified. It also called for more consistency in services across the country. br>
The report said: "Minimum standards of treatment, intervention and support should apply to all prisoners with severe and enduring mental health problems, regardless of where they are located."