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|Imprisonment for public protection damaging for mental health|
|By Staff writer 31/03/10 |
Research by the think tank Sainsbury Centre for mental health has revealed that levels of mental and emotional distress are higher among offenders sentenced to Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) than among either the general prison population or prisoners serving life sentences.
Impact on prisoners and family members alikeThis report entitled ‘In The Dark ‘ shows that IPP prisoners are much more likely to have mental health problems before they are sentenced, and the introduction of this form of custodial sentencing is having a negative impact on the mental health of prisoners and their family members.
Prisoners interviewed for this study showed signs of emotional distressed due to not being giving a release date. The uncertainty of not knowing when they would be freed eroded all sense of hope, which is also damaged family relationships in many cases, particularly for prisoners with children.
Many prisoners who have been sentenced to IPP said that they had refused mental health care and medication because of the fear that this would prevent them from completing their sentence and that could mean that they would never be released. Others had said they were in need of help but had not been properly assessed or were in need of medication but had not received it.
The impact of being refused release by the Parole Board was also very difficult to cope with, especially in cases where prisoners had done everything they could in prison to demonstrate that they were ready to be released this report shows.
IPP – where criminal justice meets mental health
A study by the organisation Race for Justice , an alliance of charities and voluntary organisations entitled, ‘Less Equal than Others ,’ showed that people from ethnic minorities are treated worse than their white counterparts by the criminal justice system.
This report showed minorities including people from African Caribbean communities are more likely to serve longer prison sentences than their white counterparts for a similar offence, even though lifetime offending rates for black men is significantly lower than for white men.
Observers note that while every person in custody is owed a duty of care by the state, there has been a trend over the past decades, which has seen this protection increasingly withdrawn from black people.
IPP is not a mental health intervention but rather a custodial sentence found in criminal law. However this form of custodial sentencing is a clear example of where the criminal justice and mental health systems converge.
Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) was created by the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and implemented in April 2005. It is an indeterminate sentence, available when an offender is identified by the courts as ‘dangerous’, but a ‘life’ sentence cannot be justified.
Offenders sentenced to IPP (or Detention for Public Protection for under eighteen-year-olds) are given a minimum term they must serve in prison, known as a ‘tariff’. After the IPP prisoner has served the tariff, the Parole Board consider their release. If it can be shown that they no longer pose a risk and that they can be managed safely outside of prison, they may then be released. Released IPP prisoners are then managed by the Probation Service on a ‘life licence’, subject to recall to prison if they breach any of the terms of their licence. Over stretched, insufficiently resourced
Sainsbury Centre researchers were told by prison mental health staff that they were over stretched and insufficiently resourced to be able to offer any help to IPP prisoners despite the obvious need.
Research shows that on 19 January 2010 there were 5,828 prisoners serving IPP sentences, and over 2,130 IPP prisoners had served their tariff by November 2009.
By 15 January 2010, 94 IPP prisoners who had served their tariff and had their sentences reviewed by the Parole Board had been released. 23 of those released on licence had been recalled to prison.
An analysis of government data on the mental health of 2,200 IPP prisoners along with interviews of 55 IPP prisoners and twenty staff across three prisons show that there are higher levels of mental and emotional distress among this group than any other category of offender. Findings revealed from Government data on this issue also shows the over half of IPP prisoners have problems with ‘emotional wellbeing’ compared with two-fifths of life prisoners and one-third of all other prisoners.
Research in this report also shows that close to one in five IPP prisoners has previously received psychiatric treatment, while one in ten are currently receiving mental health treatment in prison and one in five are on mental health medication.
Although IPP is not a mental health intervention, Ministry of Justice records showed that on 14 January 2010 there were 115 prisoners in secure forensic mental health hospitals under powers of the Mental Health Act 1983, who were also serving indeterminate sentences of Imprisonment for Public Protection.
In The Dark was published in 2008,it is the first publication of its kind to look at the mental health implications of the IPP sentence.
Link to article https://dawnwillis.wordpress.com/2010/03/31/in-the-dark-imprisonment-for-public-protection-damaging-for-mental-health/#comment-6638