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Under the Radar: Women with borderline personality disorder in prison

14th September 2010

Under the Radar, a new report by the Centre for Mental Health, shows that imprisonment can exacerbate mental distress for women with borderline personality disorder. It disrupts unstable family situations for many women and can seriously affect their children's health and future life chances.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious condition characterized by pervasive instability in moods, relationships, self-image and behaviour. People suffering from this disorder often struggle with a mixture of emotions and engage in risky, impulsive behaviours. The daily experience for these women can be one of suffering and pain.

Under the Radar shows that women prisoners with borderline personality disorder often come from an unstable family environment. Childhood trauma, sexual abuse or domestic violence may be an underlying cause of BPD. The hostile prison environment therefore can be traumatic for women with borderline personality disorder, who are often left feeling distressed by routine prison procedures.

The report calls for better diversion from custodial sentences for women with a personality disorder and increased training for prison staff. It says women prisoners should have access to psychological therapies to help them to cope and deal with their condition, and for this treatment to be continued after release.

Centre for Mental Health joint chief executive Sean Duggan said: "It is important that alternatives to custody are sought when sentencing women coping with borderline personality disorder. We need to push for better quality research to be undertaken into how the impact of custody and separation can affect women with a diagnosis of BPD and their families."

"Trained therapists with the appropriate skills need to work with women suffering from BPD throughout their time in prison. Support to help women through the transition from prison to the community also needs to be improved."

Read more:

  • See the report's press release here
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