Thursday 22 May 2014

Smell Test Failed

Important to shed light on a well-hidden but distressing problem.

I remember a few years ago when Hafal's Trustees first discussed prisons in depth and agreed that it was difficult to imagine a more oppressed group of our clients than women with a serious mental illness who are in prison.

It is always inappropriate for somebody with a serious mental illness to be in prison - where it is absolutely necessary to take somebody away from their home they should be in a health setting with the minimum necessary security. But this injustice is compounded because women prisoners are all incarcerated outside Wales and so a long way from home.

Hafal Criminal Justice Caseworker Anna Graham spoke on last night's The Wales Report (BBC 1 Wales) about the anguish experienced by female prisoners incarcerated across the border - far away from family and friends. She said:

"It is distressing when you go into prison and you see someone who was OK two weeks ago and now they are in a real state."

That sums it all up. Above all it's inhumane and cruel to a vulnerable individual to lock them up but in any case it doesn't work for the rest of society because it typically makes the individual more ill.

Time surely to think this through properly and find the humane, caring, effective, and indeed cost-effective alternative.

Meanwhile this remains a scandal for which we should all be ashamed. The UK has a fairly honourable ranking in many aspects of support for vulnerable citizens but this is one area where our reputation doesn't pass even the simplest smell test.

Watch the whole programme here and see our coverage on Facebook here.