In response to the Health and Social Care Committee report on Prison Health, Nacro Chief Executive, Jacob Tas, said:
“We welcome today’s report from the Commons Health and Social Care Committee highlighting that the duty of care towards prisoners is not being met.
“In recent years, there have been almost daily reports of problems within our prisons – from prison officer strikes and inmate riots, to frequent drug use, and violence and self-harm in our prisons hitting record high after record high – which continue to have a negative impact on the availability of health support.
“People in the criminal justice system face significant health inequalities including substance misuse issues and mental health problems. Many have chaotic backgrounds and a history of abuse and exclusion from education. In light of this, we welcome the committee’s finding that there needs to be a whole system approach which takes into account sentencing and release of people back into the community.
“For many people, the experience of going to prison is traumatic and disruptive and comes in addition to an existing mental health condition. Existing research highlights that 25% of women and 15% of men in prison reported symptoms of severe mental health disorders. In addition, more than 90% of prisoners had one or more of the five psychiatric disorders (psychosis, neurosis, personality disorder, hazardous drinking and drug dependence), with remand prisoners having higher rates of mental ill health than sentenced prisoners.
“People with mental health problems and other vulnerabilities should be diverted to more appropriate alternatives to prison, where possible. For those in prison, access to high quality healthcare when needed is essential to help them overcome or manage the challenges they face. And preparation for release must join up the care from prison with support in the community to ensure that there is continuous high quality health and care support. Without this, we not only fail in a duty of care towards prisoners, but also on a commitment to reduce reoffending and protect the public.”