MENTAL HEALTH provisions for black men in prisons is “disjointed and incoherent,” a new poll has found.
Research commissioned by prisons charity Spark Inside revealed that almost half of those surveyed (48%) think that young black prisoners are generally treated worse than other young men of different ethnic backgrounds.
The poll also found that 81% believe experiences of racism can have a negative impact young person’s mental health and almost three quarters felt that specific support for prisoners’ mental health and wellbeing is needed to reduce the risk of repeat offending.
A further 37% agreed that the current services in place for supporting prisoners’ mental health are not effective at
reducing the likelihood of reoffending once released.
The pandemic and strict lockdown measures in prisons were also blamed for exacerbating the problem that already disproportionately impacts black prisoners.
We know that black young offenders are more likely to be physically restrained. They’re more likely to be treated unfairly towards within the incentives and earned privileges.”
Dr Zubaida Haque
Vicki Cardwell, CEO of Spark Inside, said: “After 18 months of restrictions and lockdowns in prisons, it is heartening to see the public overwhelmingly back specific mental health and wellbeing support for people in custody.
“Despite this strong public support, care for young people’s emotional and mental wellbeing
in prison is not good enough.
“For instance, it’s time to recognise that young black men who are overrepresented in our prisons need specific approach to reflect their life experiences and to move away from a tick-box culture.”
The survey of over 1,000 people acknowledged that the experiences of black men beyond prison needed to be understood for mental health to be improved.
MPs have already called for a “root and branch reform” to the current provisions.
Dr Zubaida Haque, who wrote a report on the experiences of black prisoners for the Runnymede Trust, accused the government and the prison services of minimising the mental health risks during the pandemic.
She said: “The attempt to reduce the spread of transmission of Covid-19 in prisons meant that prisoners ended up spending about 23 hours of the day in their cells.
“The risk factors for a deterioration in mental health and self-harm was whether they’re able to see their families quite frequently and whether they’re allowed to engage with more rehabilitation education programmes.”
She added: “David Lammy’s 2017 report highlighted this when you’ve got over half of young offender institutions represented by black and ethnic minority young offenders, given that they only represent about 14% of the population, then you know that you’ve got a big problem.
“We know from prison inspection that black and ethnic minority young offenders are more likely to be physically restrained. They’re more likely to be treated unfairly towards within the incentives and earned privileges reward scheme.
“There are so many reports, but I don’t think a great deal has been done about them.
“We made recommendations on how the use of force could be reduced, how we think we could improve outcomes in terms of equality, safety and decency in prisons.
“One of the reasons why did our final report was because we thought it was an opportunity to share out findings externally and to put pressure on the government to do something.”