No room to help UK's mentally ill prisoners

UK PRISONS house more than 8000 inmates who have a severe mental illness and are in need of treatment, researchers say.

They estimate only one in 10 currently receive treatment in prison, while less than one-third had ever been treated in a psychiatric hospital.

These prisoners would “overwhelm” mental health services in the community should authorities act on a 2009 Bradley Report recommendation to treat more prisoners outside the criminal justice system.

“Previous UK policies to reduce overall bed numbers, limited bed numbers at higher levels of security, together with declining throughput in specialist forensic services, means that diverting more psychotic prisoners would overwhelm current inpatient capacity,” the authors said.

Int J Law Psychiatry 2011; 34:99-108