Mental health in prisons

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National Audit Office

Publication date: 

29th Jun 2017

Government does not know how many people in prison have a mental illness, how much it is spending on mental health in prisons or whether it is achieving its objectives. It is therefore hard to see how Government can be achieving value for money in its efforts to improve the mental health and well being of prisoners, according to the report by the National Audit Office. Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service (HMPPS), NHS England and Public Health England have set ambitious objectives for providing mental health services but do not collect enough or good enough data to understand whether they are meeting them.

Rates of self-inflicted deaths and self-harm in prison have risen significantly in the last five years, suggesting that mental health and well-being in prison has declined. Self-harm rose by 73% between 2012 and 2016.  In 2016 there were 40,161 incidents of self-harm in prisons, the equivalent of one incident for every two prisoners. While in 2016 there were 120 self-inflicted deaths in prison, almost twice the number in 2012, and the highest year on record. Government needs to address the rising rates of suicide and self harm in prisons as a matter of urgency.

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