Opinion – Mental Health in Prisons – 20 March 2017
Prisons and the mental welfare of their inmates are back in the news, so it seems fitting to discuss this as, later this week, SOS Silence of Suicide have a meeting with the Ministry of Justice to discuss the provision of a safe platform for prisoners to speak about their mental health. Just because someone is incarcerated, provision of adequate support services should still be available to them through accessible platforms within the prison environment.
The second reading of the prison and courts bill takes place in Parliament today and, “for the first time, the purpose of prisons will be enshrined in law” (Guardian Letters Online 19/3/17)
The Royal College of Psychiatrists are encouraging the Government to ensure the mental health needs of inmates are properly met and with nearly a quarter of inmates suffering from some kind of mental health issue, be it depression, anxiety or bipolar disease, it is a problem that cannot be ignored. Action is needed and it’s needed now.
The Guardian article states: “Prisoners will eventually return to the community. When they are released, any untreated mental illness is released with them. Prisons must be clearly responsible for tackling the mental disorders, which if left untreated, could cause prisoners to reoffend. The prison and courts bill is an opportunity to prevent prison suicide, reduce reoffending and foster rehabilitation. We urge the government not to waste it.”
Given austerity, rising homelessness, benefits cuts and low paid jobs, it could be argued that many inmates were already suffering from mental health related issues before being imprisoned. The daily battle of simply trying to exist can be exhausting, impairing perception and de-railing any motivation whatsoever. Desperation can drive people to behave in ways they wouldn’t normally consider and criminal activity, the chance to make a ‘quick buck’, is just one of them.
SOS Silence of Suicide will post details of their meeting with the MOJ at the end of the week.