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Monday, February 15, 1999 Published at 16:09 GMT


A therapeutic approach to crime

Grendon promotes group therapy for serious offenders

A unique prison which treats crime through group therapy may provide a model for treating psychopaths.

Grendon prison in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, is thought to have caught the eye of Home Secretary Jack Straw, who is planning changes in the way people with severe personality disorder are treated.

Grendon was set up in the early 1960s and is based on a "therapeutic community" model.

This means that inmates are expected to attend group sessions where they open themselves up and express their feelings.

Prisoners are referred to the prison from other jails and must sign a contract, saying they will take part in sessions, are willing to learn, to examine their past behaviour, to be tolerant of others and to be willing to help other inmates.

Most inmates are serious offenders with a history of violent or sexual crime.

Personality disorder

The jail's regime has been backed by Lord Woolf in a prison report.

The therapy sessions include treatment for people with personality disorder.

Jack Straw is said to be interested in the prison's work and to believe it offers a model for treating people with severe personality disorder.

Some mental health groups and doctors believe many people with this disorder fall between prison and hospital because they are not deemed to have a mental illness under current legislation.

Mr Straw is announced a "third way" for psychopaths, involving special detention centres which are neither prisons nor hospitals and which promote treatment plans which challenge inmates' behaviour.

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