Mental Health and the Criminal Justice System
Men, and to a lesser extent women, with mental health conditions constitute a considerable proportion of the prison population. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approximate that 39% of people detained in police custody, and 29% of those serving community sentences, have a mental health issue.
Furthermore, an estimated 76% of female, and 40% of male, remand prisoners have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Worryingly prison environments are strongly associated with mental health crises and the rates of self harm and suicide continue to rise in most UK penal institutions.
In response, the Government and various public bodies have undertaken measures to improve mental health support for those involved in the criminal justice system (CJS) and minimise discrimination, as well as unfair criminalisation. In 2017, NICE published guidance on assessing and managing the mental health requirements of adults involved in the CJS, offering recommendations on the organisation of services and planning of care, but sadly their enactment in the prison service has been under-resourced and consequently slow.
More needs urgently to be done, therefore, to improve the identification and understanding of mental health problems across the CJS to ensure safe and effective care for people transferring from one custodial setting to another. Although the prison population is predominantly male, women in the CJS are especially vulnerable to mental ill health. Suicides among recently released female prisoners are forty times higher than in the general population. The widespread usage of ‘Spice’ and other similar psychoactive substances within the prison system is almost certainly exacerbating the problem.
Clearly much more needs to be done to improve the current dire situation. Do add your comments and suggestions to this blog.