The mental health of newly remanded prisoners, the prison reception health screen and the resulting management of mental disorder at Durham prison
Recent cross-sectional studies have confirmed that the prevalence of mental disorder in English prisons is high but they provide little insight into the fate of the mentally disordered in prison. This thesis concentrates on a longitudinal study of mental disorder in 569 unconvicted adult male remand prisoners received into Durham prison between 1 October 1995 and 30 April 1996. Subjects were interviewed at reception by psychiatric researchers and monitored throughout the remand period. The data collected was used to establish the prevalence of mental disorder and substance misuse at reception into prison, effectiveness of prison reception screening, number of mentally disordered subjects identified and referred for psychiatric assessmentn, ature of psychiatric interventions, and final disposal of all subjects. Additional research was undertaken at Durham to evaluate health care provision at this prison, and, in order to comment on the generalisability of the findings, health care facilities at other prisons in England and Wales were investigated. More than a quarter of subjects at Durham prison were suffering from mental disorder. Serious disorders were especially prevalent and one in twenty remands was acutely psychotic. Drug and alcohol misuse was the norm. More than half of our subjects received current substance abuse or dependence diagnoses. Prison reception screening failed to identify nearly 80% of subjects with mental disorder, including 75% of those with acute psychosis. The treatment needs of the majority of mentally disordered subjects were overlooked in prison. Just over one quarter of mentally disordered subjects were referred for a psychiatric assessment. Contact with psychiatric services was frequently hampered by the prison regime and the actions of the courts. This resulted in acutely psychotic prisoners being released without adequate treatment or follow-up. Help for prisoners with drug and alcohol related problems was minimal. Detoxification regimes were insufficiently prescribed leaving the majority of subjects addicted to opiates, benzodiazepines and alcohol at risk of serious withdrawal. Inadequate resources, a lack of suitably trained health care staff, low morale and staff sickness hampered the delivery of effective health care at Durham prison. However, staff attitudes, institutionalised practices and negative responses from prisoners also made a significant contribution. Further inquiry indicates that Durham. prison is not unique in these respects. Problems of a similar nature are endemic in the Prison Health Service. Indeed, when the history of this organisation is traced it is apparent that such difficulties have plagued it throughout its existence.