IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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IPRT Submission on Mental Health and Criminal Justice

27th April 2012

IPRT made a detailed Submission to the Cross Sectoral Group on Mental Health and Criminal Justice in April 2012.

The submission is available to download here.

Key Recommendations

  • Where appropriate, those with mental illness should be diverted away from the criminal justice system and should be treated within a community setting.
  • Sufficient investment and resources in mental health services in community-based settings are required in order to prevent mentally-ill individuals coming into contact with the criminal justice system.
  • Statistics play an integral part in identifying the scale of mental illness present in the criminal justice system; the proper recording of incidences on mental health should be collated at each stage of the criminal justice system.
  • Ttransparent and proper recording procedures on mental health should be implemented by the Irish Prison Service; if a prisoner is transferred, these records should also be transferred with immediate effect. 
  • IPRT continues to campaign for the elimination of the practice of detaining mentally-ill prisoners in observation cells. Instead vulnerable care units should be established with 24 hour supervision by a psychiatric nurse.
  • IPRT advocates for a shift away from pharmacological treatment and towards therapeutic interventions in tackling mental illness among prisoners.
  • Overcrowding and the elimination of ‘slopping out’ must to be addressed in order to enhance and facilitate positive mental health in the Irish prison system.
  • Regimes which are full and varied will help reduce levels of mental illness in our prisons.
  • All prison staff should receive awareness training regarding suicide and self-harm prevention in prisons.
  • Additional spaces should be made available in psychiatric hospitals for the diversion of mentally-ill offenders.        
  • The mental health Prison in-reach and Court Liaison Service should be expanded across the entire prison estate.
  • IPRT campaigns for children in the prison system to be provided with appropriate mental health services; there is also a need to expand the Cloverhill screening programme to provide for young offenders.
  • IPRT advocates for the principle of equivalence of healthcare in the prison context should be equal to that in the community setting.
  • IPRT advocates that, where appropriate, mentally-ill offenders should be imprisoned as a last resort.