Concerns For Mental Health Of Inmates

A report into the wellbeing of prisoners at Peterborough’s jail has revealed that two out of three inmates are suffering from mental health problems. Bosses at the privately run HMP Peterborough in Westwood say they need more money to cope with depressed prisoners.

And by giving them better mental health support, experts believe it could reduce reoffending rates.

In a presentation to Peterborough City Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee, Deborah Hunt, a consultant clinical and forensic psychologist, said: “There is a high prevalence of mental illness and distress among prisoners. There is a significant unmet need among those with mental illness and psychological distress.

“There is a need for improved primary and mental health services in prison.”

A report from the prison’s mental health In-Reach team revealed that women prisoners are most at risk with 78 per cent of them admitting to mental health disorders.

It also shows that 53 per cent of men and 65 per cent of women have attempted suicide or self harmed.

Prisoners are not allowed access to mental health beds in NHS facilities which means they have to be treated within the prison walls.

However, the mental services health team that work in the prison say they do not have the resources to adequately do the job and are calling for an increase to the £253,000 annual funding they receive from Peterborough Primary Care Trust.

Although the picture at Peterborough prison mirrors national trends, the jail faces extra stress because of its rapid turnover of up to 5,000 prisoners a year.

And HMP Peterborough is also expected to go 20 per cent over capacity to help cope with the national shortage of jail space.

Area director of the prison mental health In-Reach team Gerry Hughes said: “Being sent to prison does not do your mental wellbeing much good. I’m not saying they should not be in prison, but the conditions do impact on them.

“The number of people coming through the prison is a big challenge. It’s not easy to get a medical history, while some don’t even have a GP.”

Prison governor Mike Conway said more resources now could save money in the future.

He added: “Mental health in prisons is a large problem and there are a range of mental illnesses.

“We have difficulties in accessing secure mental health beds in NHS facilities. As always, resources are limited and have to be prioritised.

“We are trying to prevent future victims by helping the offender to address their behaviour that got them in prison in the first place.”

The category B prison opened in March 2005 with room for 480 men and 360 women inmates. The prison was expected to go 20 per cent over capacity and today there are 576 men and 396 women remanded there.

The survey also revealed that 64 per cent of men and 65 per cent of women had experienced suicidal thoughts, while 61 per cent of men and 81 per cent of women have a neurotic disorder.