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MPs warn of mental health crisis in Britain's prisons

THERE is a crisis of mental health in Britain’s prisons, a panel of MPs has said, calling for root and branch reform to alleviate it.

The Commons justice committee said that while 10 per cent of the country’s 83,000 prison inmates are receiving treatment for mental-health problems, as many as 70 per cent could have undiagnosed mental conditions.

Announcing the conclusions of an inquiry into the issue, the committee condemned a “disjointed and incoherent approach” to the issue that has “left many prisoners suffering from mental health issues undiagnosed and unable to access care.”

The MPs called on the NHS, the Ministry of Justice and the Prison and Probation Service to improve the system to ensure better identification of health needs and “seamless” care in jails.

Committee chairman Bob Neill said: “Mental health in prisons is not treated with the focus it needs.

“When there isn’t sufficient data to even give an indication of the scale of the problem, it is clear that there needs to be concerted and systemic reform.

“We do not know how many people are missing out on the help they so desperately need or how effective current mental-health support systems are and this needs to change fast,” the Tory MP added.

Prison Reform Trust director Peter Dawson said that mentally ill people were being sent to prison, where “conditions are guaranteed to damage their health further.”

He stressed that there could be “no excuse either for prison environments that are guaranteed to make ill people sicker and in which people all too frequently take their own lives.”

A government spokesman said that ministers would seriously consider the report.

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