Vulnerable people, should never be put into Jail for Minor Offences; Protect our people with Mental Health Issues. Years ago, Cork Prison, was a living Hell, for Vulnerable Prisoners, Abused by Scumbag Alcoholic Screws, most gone now, hopefully living Miserable Lives, Stutter and Co???

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Courts ‘helpless’ when it comes to placements for mentally ill

15th November 2021

People with mental illness who commit a criminal offence are being locked in jail, enduring inhumane and degrading restrictions without access to proper treatment, a damning report reveals today.

This vulnerable group of people – the majority of whose crimes are minor and non-violent – can be subject to bullying and victimisation behind bars, the report of the watchdog the Mental Health Commission warned.

Mental Health Inspector Dr Susan Finnerty, who authored the report, said: “Many prisoners are receiving inappropriate or no treatment for their mental illness. Forensic mental health in-reach teams in prison provide an excellent service, but they are under-resourced and there are long delays in obtaining a bed in the Central Mental Hospital.”

She found people with major mental illness increasingly present to the courts with minor offending behaviour, rather than to psychiatric ­services.

“Many people who are mentally ill and who have committed minor offences can be appropriately and safely managed in general psychiatric healthcare settings.

“Irish courts should not be expected to act as a substitute for local mental health services in identifying mental illness and deciding on the most appropriate treatment. It is clear that resources must be put in place at pre-arrest, arrest and court liaison stages.”

Courts were described as “helpless” when it comes to finding a suitable placement for offenders who are mentally ill. There is a shortage of beds in the Central Mental Hospital and at the time of writing the report, there were 22 people on the waiting list – this can rise to as high as 40. There are currently 102 beds in the hospital, with a plan to increase this to 160.

Local mental health services are not resourced adequately to look after offenders who present with challenging behaviour.

Dr Finnerty said: “The only recourse is prison, where they will at least have benefit of an in-reach service.

However, our report found that the life of a mentally ill prisoner is stark. There are long periods spent in isolation cells with no protection from the rules on seclusion as the decision to isolate a prisoner rests with the prison governor.

“We also found that mentally ill prisoners are bullied and victimised in the general prison areas, including having their medication taken from them, while they can often be forced to take illegal drugs.”

The report also noted that under criminal law legislation, prisoners cannot be forced to take medication, so prisoners who are seriously mentally ill remain untreated and become even more unwell.

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