Sean DugganPeople leaving prison and police custody need more support for their mental health in their community, according to a report. 

The report, Mental Health and Criminal Justice, by Dr Graham Durcan – published by the Centre for Mental Health and commissioned by the Department of Health and the Ministry of Justice – calls on every clinical commissioning group to ensure the right support is provided to people leaving prison or on probation in their community.

Mental Health and Criminal Justice is based on consultation events with more than 200 people with personal or professional knowledge of the criminal justice system and mental health services. 

The report finds that few of the prisons represented at the events were able to offer psychological therapies, and that primary mental health care remains the weakest element of mental health support in prisons. 

An estimated 90% of prisoners have at least one mental health problem. The report calls for a national framework for prison mental health care that will set consistent standards across the country and meet the often complex and serious needs of prisoners in both England and Wales.

For many people, leaving prison is a time of crisis as they have nowhere to live and no source of income. The report calls for a new ‘concordat’ between different government agencies to join together better to help people through this difficult time.

“Poor mental health is the norm not the exception among people in the criminal justice system,” said Dr Durcan. “All criminal justice services should adopt a psychological and trauma-focused approach and provide easy access to training for all who work in them, including those working in the Community Rehabilitation Companies. 

“Mentoring and peer mentoring should also form part of the response to supporting people leaving prison. And the voices of service users should be heard in the planning and provision of services.”

Sean Duggan (pictured), chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, added: “We have found that great progress is being made in the development of Liaison and Diversion services in police stations and courts. But, we need further improvements throughout the criminal justice system, both for people in prison and for those on probation, so that no matter where a person is they receive the support they need when they need it.”