Commenting on the Prime Minister's speech on mental health on 9 January, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, Peter Dawson said:
"We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement to tackle the ‘hidden injustice’ and stigma of mental illness, and additional investment in training and community care. High numbers of men, women and children in contact with criminal justice services experience mental illness, and liaison and diversion schemes can help facilitate access to mental health and other community services at an early stage.
"Early intervention can help prevent escalating levels of need and expensive crisis intervention. For example, research demonstrates that for every £1 spent on women’s services, between £5 and £11 of benefits is realised in improved health and independence for women and their families.
"But that long term dividend can’t be realised without investment, not just in training and awareness but in the services which people need as the hidden injustice starts to see the light of day. A change in attitudes is not enough on its own."
The long awaited Ministry of Justice's white paper on prison safety and reform was published in November.
Whilst there is much to welcome, the aspirations in the white paper can only be met through the delivery of very detailed policy development, most of which has yet to be undertaken.
There are also some critical elements of reform missing, including measures to reduce the demand for prison places; standards for decency and fairness; and providing a role for prisoners in designing and delivering reform.
You can read our full response to the white paper by clicking here.
Yesterday (8 January) Director of the Prison Reform Trust, Peter Dawson took part in BBC Radio 5 Live investigates. Figures show that the number of ambulance call-outs to prisons in England has increased by nearly 40 per cent in the last three years—with an ambulance being called on average every 45 minutes.
Peter highlighted the intense pressures that prisons and people in them are facing, with the effects of an overcrowded and under resourced system now plain to see. High levels of overcrowding, coupled with a reduction in operational staff numbers have brought about a rapid decline in standards of safety and decency within our prisons. With levels of assaults, self-harm and deaths at record highs, as highlighted in our most recent Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile.
You can listen again to the show by clicking here.
Photo: Lydia under creative commons
With our prisons and the people in them under severe strain, it is easy to lose sight of some of the remarkable work going on in spite of these challenging circumstances.
This year's New Year's Honours include recognition for a number of people for their commitment to helping people in prison, including Clive Martin, Roma Hooper, Sue McAllister and Lynn Saunders. We'd like to extend our congratulations to them all.
HMP Whatton, the prison that Lynn Saunders governs, also received recognition last week from HM Inspectorate of Prisons for its positive work to reduce the risks posed by higher risk prisoners.
Click 'read more' for our response to the inspectorate's report.
Photo: dconvertini under creative commons