Monday, 26 May 2008

Mentally ill high in jail numbers

HALF the number of people in custody in Victoria have a mental illness, a study has found.

And of the 600 detainees in the survey, one in six was being treated for a mental illness at the time they were detained.

The study is part of a five-year, $3.5 million Australian Research Council-funded project by Monash University and the Victoria Police.

Senior lecturer at the Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science at Monash University Stuart Thomas said that data in the first 18 months of the study had shown a high number of mentally ill people in custody.

"We're finding the rates of all the sorts of mental disorders are elevated in the police population and roughly one in six were in treatment around the time they were detained in the cells.

"Every second one has had some sort of contact with mental health services in the past," Dr Thomas said.

The study forms part of wider research into how police deal with the mentally ill.

"The project came about because we know that anecdotally that police have frequent contact with people who are mentally disordered in the community, but what really don't know is how frequent those contacts are, what the precursors are to those contacts, what the processes are when they're in that encounter, what kind of interventions are applied and by whom and what happens as a result of the interaction," Dr Thomas said.

So far, 310 police have been questioned about their experiences and attitudes towards the mentally ill. All 10,000 operational Victoria Police will be surveyed.

Dr Thomas will discuss his research at a three-day conference hosted by Victoria Police and the Australian National University from today in Melbourne.

The "Nexus Policing: Binding Research to Practice Conference" will examine research from Australian, New Zealand, North American, South African and British experts on topics such as forensic science, public transport safety, police integrity, management of sex offenders after release and how it can be applied to policing.

Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon said for the past six years Victoria Police had developed one of the largest applied research programs in the world of operational policing, partnering with 19 universities and 72 researchers.

"We have already seen the outcomes of these collaborative research projects improving ways in which Victoria Police conducts policing, achieving smarter ways of promoting safety through partnerships and networks" she said. "Through this conference and through publication and dissemination of research findings, I am confident of a positive impact upon policing generally, both here in Australia and internationally."


“Patients under state control have had their social interaction reduced, and right to smoke removed. These vulnerable and isolated citizens, to whom the state owes a special obligation, are extremely distressed and have asked for community assistance,” said JA spokesperson Michael Poynder.

We owe prisoners more than jail
Prisons are too important to be left to jailers, for the simple reason that the standard prison magnifies social problems. It is a congregation of people with an accumu–lation of risk factors for crime.

Madness causing madness in prison hospital
“Fifty mental health patients held at the Long Bay Prison Hospital have from yesterday been locked in cells from 3.30 in the afternoon rather than the normal 9pm” said JA spokesperson Brett Collins.

Prison hospital lock-down: mental patients madness

“Prison authorities have ordered the removal of 28 officers from the prison hospital area as part of their ironically named “Way Forward”. This will lock patients into cells at 3.30pm instead of the current 9pm from April 2nd” said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

Judges depart Red Mass
Bishop Peter Ingham reminded the Judges about locking up the mentally ill in prison and that they should not be dishing out double punishment to them.

International Conference on Penal Abolition

The full agenda for ICOPA is now online, and pending any further changes, the line-up is looking like we're going to have a fascinating conference. With speakers coming to present papers from Brazil, Trinidad, Canada, Australia, USA, Belgium, Argentina, South Africa plus many more including the UK, we are really looking at a truly international conference.

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