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Addressing mental health within the criminal justice system



Linking some of themes raised by Chief Inspector Dan Thorpe at the recent Restraint Reduction Network Conference, it’s interesting to see that NICE are looking at ways to address mental health within the criminal justice system. New draft guidance has been published to improve the assessment, treatment and prevention of mental health problems in adults.

A key part of Chief Inspector Thorpe’s presentation talked about coordination and collaborative working between the criminal justice system and health care to improve outcomes and avoid injuries or deaths in custody. The proposed guidance looks like a step in the right direction.

Figures show that 39% of offenders supervised by probation, and up to 90% of prisoners have some form of mental health problem.

Key recommendations include:

  • the immediate referral to the prison’s mental health in-reach team of all those individuals entering prison, who are deemed to be at risk of a mental health problem, before they are allocated to a cell;
  • improving the management of urgent mental health cases presenting in the community by encouraging justice and healthcare services to coordinate their work;
  • establishing therapeutic community programmes in prison to provide treatment for between 12 – 18 months on a twice-weekly or daily basis; and
  • regular training of all criminal justice staff on the prevalence of mental health problems within their working environment in order to help them recognise behavioural changes and take into account that this may indicate a problem.

If you have opinions or examples of good practice to feed into these guidelines, the Restraint Reduction Network encourages its members to get involved in this important consultation process.

The draft guidance can be viewed here. Consultation for the draft guidance remains open until 18 November 2016. Follow this link to find out how you can get involved and register your comments.