Page last updated at 01:26 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 02:26 UK

Mentally ill inmates support call

Prison bars
The government aims to treat, rather than punish, mentally ill offenders

A report on diverting mentally ill offenders from the prison system is set to call for better assessment and treatment and more community sentences.

It is expected to highlight how anti-social behaviour orders and penalty notices can accelerate the treatment of mentally ill people as criminals.

Lord Bradley's report is expected to make 80 recommendations it says could save thousands of prison places.

Some estimates suggest 70% of inmates have two or more mental disorders.

One in 10 has serious mental health problems, it is also estimated.

The report published on Thursday aims to "deal with what everyone in the criminal justice system accepts is a major problem", says BBC home affairs correspondent Rory Maclean.

Lord Bradley is expected to call for proper assessment of mental health and learning difficulties in custody suites.

Other likely recommendations are for improved support in court, speedy assessments in prison and provision of enough secure mental health places.

In December 2007, Justice Secretary Jack Straw asked Lord Bradley to undertake a review into the diversion away from prison of offenders with mental health or learning disability problems.

In February, Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures revealed that a record 3,906 offenders with mental disorders were being held in secure hospitals in England and Wales at the end of 2007.

An MoJ spokesman said: "The government is committed to ensuring mentally disordered offenders receive the treatment they need, at the same time protecting the public from any threat they may pose.

"The higher hospital admission figures reflect the availability of new specialist secure facilities, increasing the ability of sentencing courts to divert mentally disordered offenders from prison at the point of sentencing."



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