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‘Prisons must be responsible for tackling mental disorders’, MPs say

22nd Mar 2017

Tomorrow, parliament will commence the second reading of the prison and courts bill. This bill aims to enshrine the purpose of prisons in law, something that has never been done before. Pressure has been put on the government to address the poor mental and physical health states of prisoners by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and a group of MPs have also written that  ‘Prisons must be clearly responsible for tackling the mental disorders, which if left untreated, could cause prisoners to re-offend’.

Just under a quarter of all of the UK prison population suffers from some kind of mental illness, including bipolar disorder, depression or multiple personality disorder. As one day most prisoners will eventually re-enter the community, any untreated mental illness will still affect them upon arrival, making re-offending much more likely. Therefore, prisons must take responsibility for treating these disorders in order to improve the quality of life of the prisoners and their future communities. The bill presents an all-important opportunity to prevent suicide amongst prisoners, improve rehabilitation techniques and reduce the chance of re-offending.

Due to shocking poverty and deprivation levels and increasing levels of homelessness in many British cities and towns, England and Wales are now ranked as having the highest imprisonment rates in Europe. The unemployment benefit for single adults is only £73.10 weekly, which has decreased in value 1979 and has not improved since April of 2015. This amount of money is not capable of sustaining a pregnant mother and leaves her without healthy food and other essentials. These elements are cause poor nutrition in pregnancy and low birth weights, which in turn are thought to be the biggest causes of decreased learning capacities, poor performance in school, various behavioural problems and thievery. This research was carried out by the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition.