Drug information charity DrugScope has today backed the recommendations of a report from HM Inspectorate of Prisons reviewing the care and support available for prisoners with mental health needs.
The report, The mental health of prisoners (1),highlights failings in the provision of mental health care for the prison population. Many people in prison experience complex mental health problems that are frequently related to substance misuse. In this context, the report also assesses responses to the needs of prisoners who are drug and/or alcohol dependent.
Researchers carried out an analysis of the screening procedures undertaken for 252 new prisoners across 14 prisons (2). It reveals that half the prisoners disclosing substance misuse problems on arrival in prison were not referred to drugs services, half were not given a urine test on arrival and a third had not had a full history taken (3).
The report concludes that “there continues to be a lack of coordination between substance misuse and mental health services” (4) with little evidence of joint-working despite the established links between mental health problems and substance misuse among the prison population.
Last year, DrugScope raised serious concerns about prison drug treatment as planned spending on the new Integrated Drug Treatment System (IDTS), designed to improve prison drug treatment, was cut by 60 per cent. DrugScope is still waiting for a response from the Ministry of Justice on plans for the future roll out for the IDTS, at present limited to a fraction of the prison estate.
Martin Barnes, chief executive of DrugScope, commented on the report findings:
“It is extremely concerning that only half of those who disclosed a substance misuse problem on entry to prison received a urine test and that only half were referred to drug services.
“It is clear that short, sharp, enforced detoxification is still the experience for many entering prison, even those who were in receipt of a prescribed substitute drug such as methadone prior to custody.
“Much activity around the current national drug strategy has centred on breaking the cycle of drugs and crime, with drug treatment for offenders stated as a major focus point. Yet time and again we are seeing failings in the duty of care for those prisoners with a drug or alcohol dependency, let alone the construction of a systematic, comprehensive prison drug treatment system. This simply cannot continue.”
Notes to editors:
(1) The mental health of prisoners: A thematic review of the care and support of prisoners with mental health needs
Published by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, October 2007
For more information see: http://inspectorates.homeoffice.gov.uk/hmiprisons/
(2) The analysis of reception screens was carried out in 14 prisons, comprising 4 young offender institutions, 4 women’s prisons and 6 adult male prisons.
(3) From page 37 of the report (section 4.35)
(4) From page 66 of the report (section 7.12)
For more information please contact Ruth Goldsmith in the DrugScope Press Office on 020 7940 7517 (07736 895563 out of hours) or at email@example.com