Mental Health and Prisons : The Bradley Report

Eric Allison writes in the guardian explaining how the practice of sharing cells is dangerous. Why? Aside from the fact that cells were only ever designed for one person, there have been numerous cases of inmates being harmed by their mentally unwell cell-mate. This paints the image of monstrous mentally ill psychopaths, frothing at the mouth and waving blooded knives around. An image often painted by the media, film and television … and it’s not very helpful. It is inaccurate for a start – very few mentally ill people will experience the blood lust expected of the stereotype. But it cannot be ignored that mentally ill prisoners pose a greater threat of harm to themselves or others. Why is this, and what can we do to prevent it?

The Bradley Report

The Bradley Report was conducted in 2009, exploring the treatment of mentally ill prisoners. It claims that “vulnerable people’s conditions are not being identified or treated, exacerbating mental health problems and frequently leading many to reoffend, self-harm or even commit suicide” It suggests that mentally in and learning disabled prisoners would be “better off serving community sentences”. It makes 82 recommendations overall, including increased awareness training for medical and prison staff, quicker transferals of vulnerable prisoners to specialist hospitals, and the importance to treating mental health early on in children and young offenders. Prisoners with mental health conditioners are not a minority group; “Around 70% of inmates are believed to have two or more mental health conditions. Around one in 10 has a serious mental health problem.”

The Bradley Report Five Years On

A follow up report has been created to see whether recommendations have been followed. There have been changes across the system, even including placing mental health nurses in police stations.  However, the report is tackling an extremely complex situation, as it explains:

“Just addressing the mental health problems or learning disabilities of those exiting the criminal justice system would be challenge enough. However, those leaving the criminal justice system tend to have complex and multiple problems and require a response that can address these. Inevitably this needs to be a multi-agency response.” This report focussing on the English prison system, which is very different to the Scotish context in which I will be working. I would like to explore the similarities and differences between Scottish and English research and provision for mentally ill and learning disabled prisoners.
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