Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health, Mark Ward TD, today called on the Minister for Justice to improve access to mental health and addiction supports in the Irish Prison Services following information he received from the Department of Justice.
As of January of 2024, 1,804 people are waiting for appointments with the Irish Prison Service Psychology Service and 894 people are waiting on addiction services.
Deputy Ward raised this with the Minister for Justice directly on the Oireachtas Committee for Justice.
Speaking afterwards, Teachta Ward said:
“It is clear from the information that I received from the Department of Justice that prisoners are not getting the vital mental health supports that they need.
“As of January, 1,804 people are waiting for appointments with the Irish Prison Service Psychology Service and 894 people are waiting on addiction services. With the latest figures that I have, this represents 65% of the prison population waiting on mental health supports.
“Psychologists in prisons treat a range of mental health issues including mood and anxiety disorders, neurotic and stress related disorders, disorders of personality and behaviour, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) including complex PTSD, self-harm and suicidal behaviour, substance use, eating disorders, psychosis and schizophrenia, addiction, dementias, cognitive decline traumatic brain injuries, impulse disorders, and disorders of sexual preference.
“As you can see from the list of mental health issues, they are quite varied and complex.
“The failure in getting timely mental health supports is in turn having a negative impact on the rates of reoffending.
“If a serious mental health difficulty such as acute psychosis is the root cause of an offence, then what hope is there for rehabilitation if the prisoner cannot access basic mental health services?
“The end result often leads to reoffending upon release, which also leads to an increase in victims. We know that about six in 10 people reoffend within three years of their release. It is a vicious cycle which is being perpetuated by successive governments’ lack of investment and resource planning in both the Irish Prison Service and the mental health services in the wider community.
“For too long, the Irish justice system has been the gatekeeper for those experiencing mental health and or addiction difficulties.
“If this Government is serious about helping prisoners and bringing down rates of reoffending then they must resource out prisons.”