Prison Based Mental Health Services

Staff and male prisoner experiences

(The Thesis provides a detailed methodology and in-depth discussion that is not included in this summary).

One consequence of the deinstitutionalisation of psychiatric care and increase in community care is the rising number of mentally ill people in prison populations and insufficient mental health professionals and services to address the needs. Health professionals in prisons suffer systemic lack of recognition support and leadership. Prisoner patients have varying experiences of incarceration and attitudes toward mental health.  There is a need to develop a correctional multifaceted and team approach to mental health care delivery as the present reliance on a community model is ineffective (Page V).

The thesis is a detailed in-depth study of the WA male prison system. The following is a summary of the conclusions.

There are limited resources and insufficient infrastructure in Western Australia to provide the necessary care for people who experience psychiatric illness and mental health problems in prison (Page 318).

The real cost of shifting to community care has remained hidden (p.318) and doesn’t include the long-term costs of incarceration let alone the personal costs. Some people need to be incarcerated before they get any help at all (Page 319).

Staff are feeling overwhelmed and under resourced in a challenging environment (Page 320). The majority of prisoners in this sample presented patterns of extensive mental distress living in prison, with many problems (Page 321). There is a need to have sufficient and well-informed staff who are able to manage risks whilst capitalising on the opportunity to treat mental illness (Page 322). The growing recognition and understanding of people’s needs and individual human rights, prisons will in turn need to become more comprehensive treatment centres; or, other alternatives will have to be developed (Page 326).

Reference: Kate Hancock. (2009). Stories and Stats: A mixed methods study of staff and male prisoner experiences of prison based mental health services, Phd Thesis, School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work, Faculty or Health Science, Curtin University. Pages V – 326.