Concern over health support for vulnerable prisoners upon release


Reports highlight challenge to boost rehabilitation programmes for inmates

FAR MORE has to be done to improve the opportunities for health and social rehabilitation from crime, according to expert reviews into the state of Scotland’s prison system. 

The current state of health care provision and support for liberated prisoners on release has still to be improved if further progress is to be made on reducing prison numbers and the reoffending rate. 

Two separate reports published this week considered the most recent evidence of attempts to reform the prison system, which had seen a surge in numbers and a host of knock-n impacts as a result of overcrowding. 

The Health and Sport Committee of the Scottish Parliament published a report concerning delivery, access, and effectiveness of health and social care in prisons. The report, which considered the serious health problems encountered by prisoners including mental health and addiction issues, backed a government strategy plan to pursue further reforms.

“We recommend the Scottish Government prepare a strategic plan covering prison social and healthcare.” Health and Sport Committee

“The overriding impression we have received from our evidence is of a population which has been very much underserved by the change in responsibilities,” the report concluded. “The promised improvements have not materialised and we do not accept the suggestion or expectation that progress and change within the health service takes a long period of time. It does not need to if the will is there and sadly within prison healthcare this has been conspicuous by its absence at senior management levels.

“We are disappointed to discover the unique opportunity to address health inequalities within the prison environment is not being taken. We recommend the extent to which this is tackled should be a key performance indicator for all of those involved.

“We should not be setting people up to fail.” Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland

“We recommend the Scottish Government prepare a strategic plan covering prison social and healthcare. The plan should set out how the aims of parity of healthcare within and outwith prisons will be fully met within the next two years including addressing the real challenges the ageing population will bring. A plan requires to be underpinned by clear, measurable indicators across at least the range of issues we have covered in this report.”

The report also identified the significant work underway to support prisoners in recovery from health issues like addiction. 1,136 prisoners started drug or alcohol treatment between October and December 2016, according to the report. 

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland published its latest inspection of the Polmont Young Offenders institution, highlighting ongoing challenges to encourage a transition from prison back to society.

The report noted: “it is concerning to note that one of their key relationships [of Throughcare Support Officers] were with food banks. An individual leaving custody may have to wait up to five weeks to gain access to their benefits, whilst having to survive on their liberation grant of as little as £58.03 for that period. It is unrealistic to expect someone to survive for five weeks on £58.03. We should not be setting people up to fail.”

David Strang, chief inspector, said it was “encouraging to see the improvements which have taken place” yet “there remain continuing challenges to be addressed”. 

Prison reform campaign groups support improving rehabilitation support to reduce levels of reoffending, and therefore reducing crime in the long-term. 

Picture courtesy of Michael Coglan

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