Mental illness and the provision of mental health services in prisons [2018]

Around 11 million people are held in prisons internationally, and criminal justice systems are overburdened with a high prevalence of multiple psychiatric disorders. In England and Wales over 200 000 people enter prisons each year, and in many cases, this facilitates their first contact with mental health services.

Sources of data
Research, evaluations, government reports and independent reviews.

Areas of agreement
Screening, Triage, Assessment, Intervention and Re-integration (STAIR) are necessary components of prison mental health provision, offering an opportunity to improve the wellbeing of a complex population.

Areas of controversy
There are serious problems with service provision across many parts of the world, with human rights abuses occurring in some States. Screening and service delivery models still require substantial development. In England and Wales, self-harm, self-inflicted deaths and violence are increasing.

Growing points
Introducing comprehensive mental health models throughout prisons would offer a massive public health initiative, providing new services for the socially disadvantaged. A rights-based framework would be useful in ensuring systemic improvements, especially in low and middle-income countries.

Areas timely for developing research
Mechanisms for screening and triage, specific interventions across a broad range of conditions, and practical re-integration models, should be submitted to research across international sites.

A Forrester, A Till, A Simpson, J Shaw

British Medical Bulletin, Volume 127, Issue 1, 1 September 2018