Scottish Government must act says leading body
Irreparable damage is being done to women suffering mental health problems in prison, a leading body has claimed.
The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland (MWCS) highlighted concerns about the segregation of women who were significantly mentally unwell and placed in solitary confinement for extended periods.
The study also raised fears about delays in accessing inpatient treatment, and about women with personality disorder not being eligible for transfer to a psychiatric hospital.
Claire Lamza, senior manager at the Mental Welfare Commission, said: “This document opens a window on the lives of some of the most marginalised women in society.
"It gives some insight into the irreparable damage that is being done to those individuals and we can only imagine the wider impact on their families and communities”.
The study follows a report from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) on women in Cornton Vale Prison, Stirling, two years ago.
It raised serious concerns about the wellbeing of women with mental ill health.
The delegation reported visiting at least five women in HMP Cornton Vale with severe mental health issues who they considered required hospital treatment, care and support.
he MWCS examined in detail what was happening to nine highly distressed women, the impact of segregation in the prison’s separation and reintegration unit, and the conditions they were kept in.
Of most concern was the use of the Separation and Reintegration Unit (SRU) for those with mental health problems which the MWCS said seemed to exacerbate the poor mental health of the nine cases they examined.
One woman, who was known to prison staff, was transferred directly from reception to the SRU due to her presentation on arrival.
She remained there for more than a month until being released from jail.
The report said: “The findings from our small review of cases appears in line with the evidence subscribed to by the CPT that prolonged isolation can have an extremely damaging effect on the mental, somatic and social health of those concerned.”