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    Mental Health Services in Prisons

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    Tikva
    Nymph
    Nymph

    Mental Health Services in Prisons

    Post  Tikva on Tue Apr 07, 2009 12:35 am

    Firstly, I think it is probably a good idea to forewarn you that this particular issue is personal to me, so I apologise in advance for any times when I might overreact....

    I wanted to discuss the lack of Mental Health Services available in New Zealand Prisons, something which I had naively believe would automatically be provided to assist in rehabilitation. Please note that I am not referring to the lack of Mental Health Forensic Units for Prisoners who are suffering from Major Mental Health disorders, but specifically to the fact that there are no Psychiatrists and Psychologists/Psychotherapists on Staff in all Prisons in our Country.

    Instead, Prisoners are referred to already underfunded and overworked Psychiatric Services in the Community, and a qualified person then visits the Prison regularly for sessions with any Prisoner who is referred. This process appears to take quite some time, with preference seemingly given for Community Mental Health, which means that Prisoners have to wait longer to receive the support they may need.

    Recently there has been much discussion around Corrections in New Zealand, with people with letters after their names giving different opinions on what will work best to reduce re-offending. We have society calling for tougher sentences on Prisoners, and certainly, for some crimes, I completely agree.

    But what I just do not understand is why something so simple that even I, one with no letters after her name, can see would help reduce re-offending. Why does every Prison NOT have a qualified Psychiatrist and Psychologist/Psychotherapist on Staff? In many cases, the Prisoner's have issues stemming from their pasts that have led to the original offending, so surely providing them with easily accessible Mental Health Professionals who can treat them with respect and privacy would be of great value?

    Such is the case with my now 17 yr old Son, who is a Prisoner at the Christchurch Men's Prison Youth Unit. His offending was certainly serious, and it was right and just that he was sentenced to Prison. Due to the fact that he was suffering from Depression, and almost succeeded in taking his own life during the period of his offending, I assumed that he would receive the care that he needed to work through issues from his past, a couple of these being in a violent home, and also living with a Mother who was also mentally unwell. When I mentioned this to his Lawyer prior to my Son being sentenced, he just laughed, and pretty much said that there is no mental health care in Prisons. I thought that maybe he just wasn't a very good Lawyer, or was somewhat jaded, but it turns out that he is 100% correct. And I am stunned. It just seems to make so much sense!

    One thing that I have observed when attempting to find out more information from Corrections on this issue, is that unless you ask very direct questions, you are given an answer which sounds 'good', but is really only a diversion from the truth. Such was the case when my son was at Youth Justice South, and I would ask them about him receiving regular visits with a qualified Therapist, and they would just reply that he has been able to talk to the on-staff Counsellor. Now, correct me if I am wrong, but a Psychologist/Psychotherapist has far more qualifications and experience for supporting those with Mental Health issues, whereas a Counsellor does not.

    Maybe this new Government needs to be spending money on creating such services in every Prison, before they even think about building new ones!
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    Psalter
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    Re: Mental Health Services in Prisons

    Post  Psalter on Tue Apr 07, 2009 1:18 am

    Wow, I am stunned. If what you say is correct, it seems that corrections has its head up its arse so hard it can't hear common sense.

    Lobby.

    the distant one
    Mortal
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    Re: Mental Health Services in Prisons

    Post  the distant one on Tue Apr 07, 2009 2:27 am

    It\'s YDEKM here - I can\'t be bothered logging TDO out.

    I know in the case of Youth Justice - and YJ South that is is a funding issue. Simple as that - no money.

    It doesnt help that there is no link between the Youth prisions and the Youth Justice Residences. Completely seperate organisatons and funding. I believe Labour planned to emalagamate the two - for consistency and to follow Youth Offenders through until they were 18. But that along with the new YJ Act changes were put on hold by National until after the election.

    So we\'re seeing the \"tougher\" Supervision with Residence orders (\"boot camp\") as part of the CYF Act rewrites so we may see a closer relationship between Corrections and Youth Justice - as that was promoted with the act changes over 18 months ago.

    Everything is outsourced these days - to save money. I know Youth Justice want to move back to more in-house treatment but a lack of $$$ and uncertainity of where Youth Justice sits amongst the Police, CYF, Justice and Corrections will prevent anything being implemented in the short term. Which is a shame.


    Last edited by the distant one on Tue Apr 07, 2009 2:39 am; edited 1 time in total
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    Anjewel
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    Re: Mental Health Services in Prisons

    Post  Anjewel on Tue Apr 07, 2009 2:35 am

    A friend working in a Prison says it is the lack of money as to why....
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    Tikva
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    Re: Mental Health Services in Prisons

    Post  Tikva on Tue Apr 07, 2009 3:56 am

    Thank you for your comments. Yes, it is certainly a lack of funding that is no doubt the cause of this problem, and yet we have a government who is more interesting in spending that money on new prisons, rather than spending money on providing services that decrease the risks of re-offending.

    Last Friday, I actually telephoned the Manager of the Youth Prison to find out why my Son hadn't had access to any Mental Health Services since being imprisoned, and was told that a referral had been put through to a Community Organisation a few months ago. I certainly do not blame the Prisons, nor the Community Mental Health organisations out there. It's the sheer stupidity of it that really stuns me!

    I don't know a thing about lobbying, but am sending emails to both the Minister of Corrections and the Associate Minister of Corrections.

    I'm not trying to advertise anything here, but I actually keep a blog on my website of all the letters that my Son sends me (with his permission), and if you read about the last 4 entries (letters), you will no doubt see that having access to such services in Prison would have benefited him greatly recently. The Blog is located at this link and you do not have to be a Registered Member to read it.

    I don't know how, but there must be some way to get this information to the right people, who might actually be able to do something!!!
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    relict
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    Re: Mental Health Services in Prisons

    Post  relict on Tue Apr 07, 2009 10:15 am

    Well done on writing/posting the letters!

    It's not just within prisons that mental health services are underfunded. Emergency mental health is another area with IMO extreme underfunding. Likely there would be other areas too, but I haven't had friends needing the other services, so have heard less.

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