Only 1 in every 10 prisoners are not affected by mental health problems. These issues can be wide ranging and can include Learning Difficulty, Bi polar disorder, Personality Disorder, schizophrenia or drug induced psychosis.
It would seem that with cuts to prison budgets and prison law legal aid that this situation has been worsened. Help is not always at hand, medication might be unavailable or late, psychology is often rare and limited and some prisons do not even have access to a psychiatrist. For those with a Learning Difficulty adapted or 1:1 course do not always exist or are provided.
For many people detained in prison this is not always the correct place and hospital would be a more suitable environment. A transfer from the prison to hospital can occur. This transfer is done under Section 47 of the Mental Health Act. Often restrictions will apply to prisoners in regards to this.
For this transfer to happen the Secretary of State must be satisfied following receipt of two medical reports from two psychiatrists, that a prisoner is suffering from a mental disorder which makes it appropriate for him or her to be detained in hospital for treatment. This treatment must be available to the prisoner when they get to hospital.
Often the prison does not have resources to start this process and many Prison Officers however experienced at assisting those with Mental Health Problems cannot always identify those who need this help.
Transfer to prison however is not the easy option, it may mean that for those serving determinate sentence that you could stay in hospital than you would in prison. You would however be given the opportunity to address mental health issues you have.
For those serving life and IPP sentences this may offer a different route to release and more support on a release plan. For those subject to Life or IPP sentence when you are well and ready for release you can make an application to the First Tier Tribunal to seek recommendations that you remain in hospital for a Parole Board to take place there. You do not need to go back to prison for this. The Parole Board procedure then will take place about six months after this decision in Hospital. The benefit being that those who have treated you will give evidence and have input into your release plan.
Real benefits then can be support from a community mental health team, more appropriate accommodation and extensive leave including overnight leave, giving opportunity for resettlement and obtaining work.
Other benefits can include access to course such as the SOTP or adapted courses for those with mental health problems and learning difficulties. This can allow sentence plans or work directed by the MOJ to be completed allowing progression.
Mental Health Solicitors can now assist prisoners with who are struggling with these issues and who would like to be advised on or transfer to hospital. Where the gaps were following the cuts in Prison Law, Mental Health Law now can assist.