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UK: Report launched evaluating mental health projects in the criminal justice system

27th February 2013

‘Hope Inside: Mental health projects in the criminal justice system’ has been published by the Revolving Doors Agency. The report is an evaluation of service user views of five projects funded by the Trusthouse Charitable Foundation.

The report highlights how involvement in the criminal justice system in general (and imprisonment in particular) can damage an individual’s mental health – either exacerbating pre-existing difficulties or providing an initial trigger for mental health problems.

The projects evaluated in the report provide immediate practical assistance, as well as ongoing emotional support, to their respective client groups, who described the projects in glowing terms in this research: ‘They’ve helped me emotionally. They’ve given me a lot of emotional support. I feel that they treat me more as a person than just somebody with a mental health issue or somebody that’s been involved with the criminal justice system’ (Community Link client).

The interviewees also highlighted the lack of alternative sources of support, either in prison or in the community: ‘When I got out last time, I’d done three years hard time and I got out and I was homeless. And basically, they just put me in a hostel – miles away from anybody that I knew, like any support. And within a matter of weeks, I was like using again and just straight down that road of dealing and being dragged back into that lifestyle. And again, basically, abusing myself, if you can understand? I was never offered any help’ (Outlook client).

Whilst the interviewees describe experiencing a wide range of individual benefits from their involvement with the projects, the key achievements are summarised as follows:

  • Developing positive relationships, building trust and confidence.
  • Empowering clients by ‘working with’ rather than ‘doing to’ them.
  • Enabling clients by developing coping strategies for negative emotions.
  • Inspiring sight for a better future, optimism and motivation for change.
  • Opening access to ongoing mainstream service support.

This report calls for substantial investment in mental health support for offenders, in order to impact effectively on reoffending rates and criminal justice costs. In particular, it calls for the provision of more intensive support, greater sustainability of work and through-care into the community, including:

  • Increased provision of mental health support, especially more intensive, sustainable support; access to suitable accommodation and 24/7 telephone support.
  • Through-care support from prison, including day-release to access community support prior to release.
  • Better co-ordination and clearer pathways, linking clients into other services through effective advocacy support and access to education, training and employment.
  • Training to both service providers and the criminal justice system to promote greater understanding of the issues facing this client group and develop the skills necessary to achieve more constructive delivery approaches.

The full report can be read here

viewed here