Unraveling the Paradox: Why Are UK Prisons Under Capacity?
Dealing with the incarceration dilemma in the UK necessitates confronting a complex issue. The problem of overcrowded prisons is evident and cannot be ignored, as well as the significant challenges in accessing healthcare for prisoners. The number of people behind bars has dramatically increased following the strike by the Criminal Bar Association last year, where they demanded higher wages. This surge in the prison population has put immense pressure on correctional facilities, pushing them beyond their limits. As a result, the UK government has taken advantage of this situation to introduce its most extensive prison construction project since the Victorian era.
More Incarcerated Individuals Need Safer Environment
The proliferation of institutions and rising incarceration rates might lead to an escalation in challenges. This scenario could give rise to numerous issues within correctional facilities. Overcrowding prisons, for instance, can amplify the likelihood of violence. The heightened exposure to violence among incarcerated individuals could render them more predisposed to aggression. Additionally, imprisonment exerts detrimental effects on both the physical and mental well-being of individuals. As the UK government strategies to construct more prisons, it should also prioritise establishing a safer and more conducive environment for the incarcerated population.
Variety of Criminals Need Consideration
Increased prison overcrowding is associated with elevated rates of violence and exacerbated health challenges. The UK government has projected that the prison population in England and Wales could reach approximately 100,000 by the year 2027. As of February 2023, the prison population in England stood at 83,687, while the UK’s overall figure was around 90,000. The UK correctional landscape encompasses various types of prisons housing diverse categories of inmates. These include individuals incarcerated for crimes such as robbery, violence, sexual offences, and offences linked to terrorism and drugs.
NHS Failed to Protect Mental Health Issues
Considering the diversity of criminals, there is a significant need for mental healthcare in prisons in the UK. The NHS has taken over responsibility for healthcare in jail since 2005. However, the NHS has not done much to protect mentally disordered prisoners. Mental health disorders are high among adult prisoners, as being in custody exacerbates mental health difficulties. Ignoring the mental health disorders inside the prisons will lead to the rise of self-harm and violence rates.
Self-Harm Incidents Increases in Jails
The full scope of the demand for mental healthcare remains uncertain to the NHS, the HM Prisons and Probation Service, and the Ministry of Justice. Within UK prisons, incidents of self-harm and violence have reached significant proportions. For instance, in the 12 months leading up to March 2023, there were approximately 60,000 incidents of self-harm reported in women’s jails across England and Wales. Notably, the violence rate within women’s prisons experienced a 7% increase, with severe violence incidents rising by 19%.
Incarcerated Individuals Need Adequate Services
Issues related to prisoners have different levels regarding the complexity of the problems. Prisoners are left segregated and isolated from their community with not much emotional support. The situation is worst among female prisoners compared to the male. The UK government must immediately fix incarcerated individuals’ issues by providing adequate services. The government must train all prison staff with good education on trauma and violence to deal professionally with people behind bars.
Nature and Extent of Prisoners’ Needs Are Important
People in jail struggle with personal worries and societal pressures. Prisoners may suffer from less severe mental health disorders. Around a quarter of male and around half of female prisoners deal with depression and anxiety. The NHS and the Ministry of Justice should cooperate to quantify their needs and evaluate the extent of the requirements. Otherwise, the extent of violence rates in prisons and self-harm will not decrease and will remain after the prisoners are released.
Mental Health Facilities Must Not Be Another Jail
In cases where prisons are hazardous environments for inmates, the alternative could involve transferring them to secure healthcare facilities. However, these facilities could function as another type of prison for individuals who are already incarcerated. Placing them in health facilities, even if designed for security, could jeopardise their mental well-being due to limited interactions with family or friends and minimal social engagement. Consequently, while healthcare facilities’ and prisons’ labels and configurations may differ, the potential consequences could bear similarities.
Government Must Support Prisoners’ Families
The NHS and the Ministry of Justice should gracefully help improve people’s health who cope with prison disorders. Many jail people may suffer from depression and anxiety because they have their families outside. As individuals lose their liberty, the family relying on them are left behind, which could bring about extra stress to the people in jail. Financial and emotional ties between the families and the incarcerated people are considerable. A family’s financial stability that relies on an imprisoned person is under threat.
Activities Will Help Improve Mental Health
Assisting their families can alleviate stress among prisoners. Offering financial aid to inmates and their families, along with meaningful activities during incarceration, could contribute to easing the burden of imprisonment. It’s worth noting that nearly 40% of young detainees spend over 22 hours per day confined to their cells. The lack of engaging activities in this context poses a heightened risk to their mental well-being.
Social and Criminal Justices Are Correlated
Among society’s most marginalised segments, prisoners stand as a group requiring heightened attention and care. Disregarding their mental health disorders could contribute to increased violence within correctional facilities. The financial circumstances of families are intertwined with their penchant for legal transgressions. Experiencing financial hardship and adverse living conditions can elevate the likelihood of individuals engaging in unlawful behaviour. The domains of criminal justice and social justice are interlinked, underscoring the significance of addressing the underlying causes of crime and the circumstances individuals find themselves.
Prisoners Should Be in Clean Institutions
Safeguarding the welfare of individuals within prison holds importance both during their confinement and in the aftermath. This notion encompasses comprehensive healthcare, encompassing both general and medical care. Unfortunately, the UK government’s track record in tending to the needs of incarcerated individuals is lacking. Numerous inmates find themselves confined in unsanitary and outdated prison facilities amidst elevated levels of self-harm and violence. Moreover, many prisoners face disruptions to their well-being due to missed hospital appointments, impacting their long-term health prospects. These individuals must possess the right to access healthcare services like those available to individuals in the broader community.
Caring for Prisoners Mitigates Violence Rates in the UK
The health of individuals is jeopardised during incarceration, with physical ailments potentially compounding this susceptibility and worsening mental health conditions. Apart from addressing mental health and offering financial assistance, individuals in custody require proper physical healthcare. The National Health Service (NHS) and the Ministry of Justice play a role in furnishing health support to incarcerated people. Enhanced care in this regard could contribute to the mitigation of violence rates both within and beyond correctional facilities.