Problems Within A Failing System.

Mental health issues hit 4 out of 5 inmates at Styal women’s prison

Exclusive by Deborah Linton of the Manchester Evening News.

The majority of prisoners at Styal women’s prison suffer from mental health problems

Four out of five prisoners at Styal women’s jail suffer from mental health problems, we can reveal today.

The figure emerged in a report drawn up after town hall councillors went on a fact-finding mission to the jail.

Some 80 per cent of inmates had at least one diagnosed mental health issue, while 70 per cent had two or more.

Despite that, the mental health unit at the over-stretched Cheshire prison had space for just ten women, the report found.

It also emerged that the jail’s 450 inmates required an average of 80,000 medical appointments every year.

Julie Marriott – northern service manager for the charity and campaign group Women in Prison, which work with Styal to provide support to inmates – said: “The underlying issue is that there are too many women in prison who do not need to be there. In my opinion Styal has been very forward-thinking in acknowledging this and bringing in a myriad of organisations to try and deal with it.”

The factfinding visit came as part of work being done by Manchester council’s citizenship and inclusion scrutiny committee, exploring the treatment of women in the Criminal Justice System.

Committee chair Brendon Jones said: “We were concerned about a number of issues but particularly the number of women being sentenced with mental health issues.

“What we are greatly concerned about is sentencing. I am writing on behalf of the city, as the chair, to the justice secretary raising generally the treatment of women within the Criminal Justice System.”

When contacted by us, the governor of Styal, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Department of Health all passed on responsibility for handling the matter.

The MoJ claimed it was a matter for the Department of Health, while the Department of Health claimed it was a matter for the Primary Care Trust for central and eastern Cheshire, who jointly commission healthcare for the prison with East Cheshire NHS Trust.

Neither trust returned our request for a statement.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We await the council committee’s letter.

“We are committed to tackling offending among women who are sentenced to custody and recognise the complex needs of women offenders, in particular their often long histories of abuse, mental health issues and substance misuse problems.

“Sentencing is a matter for independent judiciary, as only they have the full facts of a case before them.”

Styal was blasted in a report by HM Inspector of Prisons in 2009 for failing to meet challenges from a ‘complex and growing’ number of vulnerable inmates.

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