April 28, 2023
Prisons not the right environment for people with serious mental health issues – Mark Ward TD

Sinn Fein spokesperson on Mental Health, Mark Ward TD, has called for immediate action for prisoners with mental health problems.

Teachta Ward was responding after the Prison Officers Association Annual Conference in Galway which stated that it was “wholly unacceptable” for people with serious mental health issues to be detained in prisons.

Teachta Ward said:

“Prisons are not the right environment for people with serious mental health issues.

“I first raised this problem as far back as 2020 after a report by The Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture, after it reported mentally ill prisoners were offered poor conditions and inadequate treatment.

“Fast forward to 2023 and nothing has changed.

“Reports from the Prison Officers Association Annual conference are concerning.

“They highlighted several issues including:

  • Their members are not trained to deal with the mentally ill and these people should be in a care setting, not a custodial setting.
  • A significant number of assaults in prisons are conducted by a small number of people with mental health issues.
  • Five staff were recently injured in an attack by a person suffering from mental health issues, three have not returned to work.
  • 250 people a day receive treatment from the Forensic Mental Health Service in prison. Around 50% are engaging or waiting for psychologist, while 60% of those in custody have an emotional disorder.
  • The Director of the Prison Service says that 17 men and 1 woman are currently waiting in prison to be admitted to the Central Mental Hospital.
  • Four people are so gravely unwell and suffering from psychosis that they must be ‘barrier handled’, where only prison officers in full riot gear and shields can deal with them.
  • One man has been waiting two years to be admitted to the Central Mental Hospital.

“They did mention the crisis de-escalation project that was due to be rolled out in Limerick as a way of keeping people with serious mental health issues out of the prison system.

“However, this has been delayed and will now not be operational until late 2023 last year.

“This delay of such a vital project is disappointing, our communities are need of such crisis de-escalation teams.

“I have written both the Minister for Justice and Mental Health calling for an immediate action plan and a more humane response for people with serious mental health problems.”

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