In February 2017, JUSTICE responded to the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ call for written submissions to its inquiry into mental health and deaths in prison, which was launched in order to establish whether a human rights-based approach can lead to better prevention of deaths in prison of people with mental health conditions.
Our response focusses on the first of eight issues being examined by the commission: the appropriateness of prison, or more specifically the question of what more can be done to ensure that vulnerable people who should never be in prison do not get sent there in the first place.
This question directly concerns the work of our Working Party on Mental Health and Fair Trial, and represented an opportunity for us to provide our current concerns and working suggestions in relation to diversion away from the criminal justice system for mentally ill individuals and, ultimately, the avoidance of a prison sentence wherever possible.
There are opportunities for diversion at every stage of the criminal justice process: at the point before arrest, on making the charging decision and the decision to prosecute, on application during trial and on disposal. Diversion, where appropriate, will rely on successful identification of a suspect or defendant’s vulnerability. However, issues with the identification of vulnerability abound at each stage of the criminal justice process. Successful identification must then trigger an appropriate and effective response – which may mean removing the individual from the criminal justice system altogether.
JUSTICE’s full submission can be found here.