Mental health

Commenting on the latest safety in custody statistics published today by the Ministry of Justice, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

 “The faint hope that our prison system might have turned a corner has been dashed by these numbers. Prisons are still getting more dangerous as places where people have to live and work.  More people than last year chose to take their own life rather than endure it. When an individual prison hits rock bottom, the government reduces the number of prisoners it holds – but it continues to ignore the obvious truth that it is the prison system as a whole that is grossly overcrowded. Ministers talk about having recruited more staff, but the problem will only be solved by having fewer prisoners.”

Photo credit: Andy Aitchison

Read more


Commenting on today’s (3 July 2019) publication of new definitive guidelines for arson and criminal damage offences by the Sentencing Council, Mark Day, head of policy and communications at the Prison Reform Trust said:

“A significant proportion of people who commit arson have a mental health need, learning disability or autism. This guideline highlights the importance of courts obtaining a proper assessment of any underlying mental health condition or disorder before deciding the degree to which someone can be held responsible for what happened, and sets out a clear process for doing so, including full engagement with liaison and diversion services. This should lead to the fairer and more appropriate treatment of vulnerable defendants in our courts.”

Click here to read our submission to the Sentencing Council's consultation on the draft guidelines.

Photo credit: Andy Aitchison

Read more


PRT comment: HMP Wakefield

01/11/2018 00:01:00

Commenting on today's inspection report on conditions at HMP Wakefield, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This report shows what can be an achieved in an adequately resourced prison, with a stable and settled population. But it also highlights the unreasonable expectations placed on prisons and staff to care for people with acute mental illnesses. Rather than getting the help they urgently need, they are held in conditions which make matters worse, because secure mental health units will not or cannot make beds available. The Chief Inspector has correctly laid this problem at the minister’s door—the minister needs to apply the same discipline to solving it as he demands from governors in meeting the recommendations put to them.”

Read more


The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon. David Gauke MP, set out in a speech delivered last week (Thursday 21 June 2018) how the government is improving outcomes for people with mental health problems and other needs caught up in the criminal justice system.

Speaking at the 2018 reception of the Care not Custody Coalition he set out the significant progress made since the inception of the Coalition in 2011.

The Care not Custody Coalition also published a briefing at the event, bringing together the array of work by coalition members, and progress made to date.

Click 'read more' for the full story

Read more


Following correspondence with the chair of the independent review, Sir Simon Wessely, the Prison Reform Trust, Centre for Mental Health, and Together for Mental Wellbeing convened a meeting to provide a ‘criminal justice’ response to the review’s initial consultation. The meeting was chaired by Lord Bradley, and our response can be read by clicking here

In a follow up discussion with Sir Simon, we have agreed to convene a further meeting that will focus on people with a learning disability and/or autism in the criminal justice system, which will be held in April. 

Further information about the independent review can be found by clicking here.

Read more


The latest edition of the Prison Reform Trust's Bromley briefings prison factfile highlights in facts and figures the consequences of a punitive political arms race over criminal justice policy over the past three decades. Steep cuts to prison staff and budgets in recent years have exposed the fault lines of a failed approach. The result is an overcrowded and overstretched prison system where standards of safety and decency are way below international expectations.
 
This year’s Bromley briefings open with a brand new section which we have called “The long view”. The Prison Reform Trust has built its reputation over more than three decades on presenting accurate evidence about prisons and the people in them. In a world where ministers feel compelled to respond to issues with ever greater immediacy, “The long view” offers an antidote to the latest Twitter storm or early morning grilling in the media.

Click 'read more' for the full story

Read more


Commenting on the Ministry of Justice's safety in custody statistics published today, Mark Day, head of policy and communications at the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"Despite a small but welcome fall in deaths, every other indicator points to the ongoing and longstanding deterioration in standards of safety in our overstretched prisons. Record levels of self-harm and assaults highlight mounting levels of frustration and despair among prisoners. Too many prisoners are held in overcrowded and impoverished conditions with too few staff to provide a safe and constructive regime. With prison numbers projected to increase, declining levels of safety will be very difficult to turn around without a concerted effort by ministers to take the pressure off the system by reducing prison numbers."

Read more


The Prison Reform Trust’s Head of Policy and Communications, Mark Day, yesterday took part in a discussion on the BBC Two Victoria Derbyshire programme on the damaging legacy of the Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP). The BBC’s story, which was also covered by the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, considered the case of James Ward, who in 2006 was given an IPP sentence with a 10-month tariff, but who 11 years later remains in custody. Commenting on the Today programme, the Chair of the Parole Board, Nick Hardwick, urged the government to “get a grip” on the issue by bringing forward measures to expedite the release of the remaining post-tariff IPP prisoners.

You can watch the feature on the Victoria Derbyshire programme here [starts 16.10]

Read more


Commenting on today's National Audit Office report on mental health in prisons, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:
 
“This is a familiar tale of admirable policy objectives not being delivered on the ground. There is a ray of hope in the successful rollout of liaison and diversion schemes in courts and police stations that spot some of the people who are most vulnerable. But this report makes horribly clear that our prisons are holding very many people who will suffer disproportionate and unnecessary harm because of the prison environment. It is futile to expect to improve their situation while prisons are overcrowded and thousands of people are spending a few weeks inside each year simply because there is inadequate community provision. The government must grip the issue of who goes to prison so that the system can care properly for the minority who really need to be there.”

Read Peter's blog for Huffington Post by clicking here.

You can download a copy of the full report by clicking here.

Read more


Figures released today (Monday 8 May) by the Prison Reform Trust to mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Week (8–14 May) reveal that our overcrowded and overstretched prisons are struggling to meet the needs of the high numbers of people in their care with a mental health need or learning disability. 

Rising levels of self-inflicted deaths and record numbers of self-harm incidents point to the urgent need for the next government, whatever its political complexion, to address the decline in safety and standards in our prisons and to increase support in the justice system for vulnerable defendants.

Click 'read more' for the full story.

Read more

first arrow previous arrow  next arrow last arrow