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Prisoners: Mental Health

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN HL13677, tabled on 24 February 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact on the mental health of prisoners of being confined to their cells for 23 hours a day or more.

Answered on

10 March 2021

NHS England & Improvement and NHS Wales are responsible for the assessment and treatment of the mental health needs of those in prison.

When regime restrictions were introduced in prisons to control the spread of COVID-19 and save lives, we recognised that these measures could increase the mental health needs of those in our care. Maintaining prisoners’ mental health and wellbeing has therefore remained a priority throughout the pandemic.

To address anxiety and boredom, we have made available distraction packs, in cell activities and a range of self-help materials, including a Wellbeing Plan, created with input from mental health charity Mind. We have also given staff resources for assisting prisoners who might be struggling, such as guidance for understanding and supporting someone who is self-harming and wellbeing checks for vulnerable and priority groups of prisoners. The Samaritans phone service has remained available and we are working with them to ensure their Listener scheme continues to facilitate peer support between prisoners.

We have also acted quickly to ensure that prisoners could stay in touch with their loved ones, rolling out secure mobile handsets, providing every prisoner with £5 PIN credit per week and introducing secure video calls.

The National Framework provides a roadmap for easing restrictions in prisons when it becomes appropriate, guided by public health advice, alongside an operational assessment of what can be achieved in custodial settings while keeping staff and those in our care safe.