England & Wales has one of the highest prison populations in Europe. There has been a 90% rise in the prison population in the last 20 years(1). There are approximately 85000 people in prison in England & Wales , with 82000 identified as male (2). It is predicted to rise to 90200 by 2020, a 10% increase (3). For comparison, the population of England and Wales will go up around 4% between 2015 and 2020. It is estimated to cost around £36000 per prisoner per year. 21000 prisoners are from an ethnic minority, nearly 25%, compared to around 10% in the general population(4). (vulnerability and poorer job prospects?)
It is possible that rising inequality or government policy has increased the prison population. Especially when environmental factors such as leaded fuel have reduced (5). See https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/ for the problems with income inequality. The UK sometimes mirrors the USA. Like our health system we are starting to copy the USA. Private companies are starting to run our prisons.
Amongst prisoners there is higher prevalence of anxiety, depression and psychosis, than the general population. Approximately 7% of prisoners meet the criteria for having a learning disability. There is stigma within prisons and prisoners considered ‘difficult’ may actually have mental health problems. Drug use in prisons is a problem and the staff:prisoner ratio has been reduced over the years. The government wrongly attempted to reduce book access to prisoners, however illiteracy can be an issue. Prisoners spend approximately 22hr a day in their cell. Sometimes they are transferred to other prisons or are in on short sentences. In extreme cases they can be removed under the Mental Health Act but this is not taken lightly. HMP Leeds in Armley is the 2nd most overcrowded prison in the country (6). It is designed for 669 people but currently has 1176. This means prisoners have to share cells, this is not ideal for certain prisoners with mental health difficulties.
Mental health services in prisons have to overcome these complications. Further cuts to health and social care, risk affecting these service users. This is just one service that the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust provides.
By a governor on the Leeds & York NHS Partnership Trust.
(3) Prison Population Projections 2014 – 2020, England and Wales