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Is Prison Really the Best Place for the Disposal of the Mentally Ill Offender? PDF  | Print |  E-mail

The Guardian, The Times and The Telegraph

Is Prison Really the Best Place for the Disposal of the Mentally Ill Offender?

The Home Office says (Part II of Reforming the Mental Health Act - High Risk Patients) "The NHS Plan recognised the high prevalence of mental health problems among the prison population.  For example, recent surveys show that 9 out of 10 adult prisoners have one or more problems related to psychosis, neurosis, personality disorder and drug and alcohol abuse."  The prison population numbers now 75,000.

It is impossible to overstate the awfulness of the current situation.  Most of the large psychiatric hospitals have been closed and the most seriously ill patients, who have offended, are sent to prison despite the knowledge that their disturbed brain chemistry has been the direct cause of their criminal behaviour.  There is talk of more prisons being built.  How can we allow the mentally ill to be so shockingly treated?  Those with bodily diseases are treated with compassion in hospital and yet those whose brains have been adversely affected by disease have punishment added to the already considerable suffering caused by their mental illness.

The brain is a hugely important organ.  Its structure and chemistry are highly organised.  It depends for its health on being delivered the very best nutrition by the body.

As the brain is the organ that determines our thought processes, our emotions and our behaviour, it is all important to treat it with the greatest respect.  That means that is is absolutely essential to understand that we must have a healthy body if we are to have a healthy brain.  The Romans had a Latin tag for this Mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body).  Susan Greenfield, in her book The Human Brain, recently said something similar when she wrote "The state of the body can feed back to influence the state of the brain."

If our body becomes ill then so can our brain.  In schizophrenia there is a raised incidence of gut disease, heart disease, endocrine disease and infections and a raised mortality rate for a similar range of diseases.  Why should this be so?  Despite the above evidence, there is a huge neglect by doctors of the physical state of their psychiatric patients.  Once the psychiatric symptoms occur the brain is, as it were, isolated from the body.  Schizophrenia is regarded as a brain disease as if the brain were isolated from its all-important body.  It is then pounded with very strong palliative symptons.  If the medications are stopped the symptons usually recur.  These drugs are only very partially effective and their side-effects on the body are often horrific.  Their development has led to the abandonment of a search for bodily causes for the psychiatric symptons.  Very probably scizophrenia would have been curable by now had the research being carried out in the 1950s and 1960s been continued.  Now drugs have taken over and the search for causes is largely just a memory.

The mentally ill may try to relieve their psychiatric symptons through street drugs.  Only a very little alcohol or cannabis is needed to worsen a schizophrenic illness, especially probably in the production of violence and anger as symptons.  There should be huge warnings of the dangers to the mentally ill of cannabis and alcohol.  Instead they are now more readily available to them.

Psychiatric patients should be returned to the fold of general medicine.  The brain should not be considered separately from the all-important body.  Body and brain are one.  The brain is not a separate appendage to the body to be studied in isolation.  It is part of the body.

New hospitals must be built and the mentally ill must be brought out of prison and treated with the utmost compassion in general hospitals as a matter of course, as all other patients are.

Pre Victorian Punishment Today! PDF  | Print |  E-mail

Article kindly provided by The Schizophrenia Association of Great Britain.


Dear Editor 

At the beginning of August 2006 I began to listen to a radio programme entitled Vulnerable Teenagers in Custody.  I had to make myself listen to tragedy after tragedy describing what was happening to the young people locked up in a harsh punitive environment.  They were probably all develpoing mental illness and almost certainly it was this that had caused their unacceptable behaviour.  The segregation punishments meted out were too awful to bear.  The suicide of one inmate was described by his brave mother.  Such suicides are not rare in such bleak and punitive encironments.  One particularly vivid description was of a large metal 'cage' as it was called by the prisoners.  It was evidently a small exercise and punishment cage in which prisoners could do nothing but pace up and down in their isolation.

This radio programme described, in the most soul-destroying way, what was happening in these prisons for young offenders.  It was evidently a typical example of a young offenders punishment centre.  I could scarcely listen, but I was left with the memory of the punishment regimes for those young people.  They are awful beyond belief.  These are young, unstable people being isolated and punished.  They are, of course, in huge need of sympathetic understanding and most probably all of them in need of good compassionate treatment in hospitals where their disturbed behaviours could be understood and often medically treated.  The punishment of those children is shocking beyond belief.  It was admitted, towards the end of the programme, that the offenders were, many of them, mentally ill but those in charge of them were unqualified to deal with mental illnesses.  Suicides in prisons are very common.

The very next day, 2nd August, Ed Vulliamy wrote an article in the Guardian entitled Sentenced to Death?  This was a report of a very clever young man with a diagnosis of schizophrenia who killed himself in Strangeways prison segregation unit.  Such huge cruelty to the mentally ill is being enacted before our eyes.  Apparently about 95 mentally ill prisoners a year commit suicide whilst in prison.

We have to act quickly before more such tragedies occur.  Again, the mother of this second young man did all she could to have him transferred to a therapeutic setting.  There appears to be a complete lack of understanding by the Home Office of the utterly disgraceful punishments in prison for the young mentally ill.

There are 81.547 in our prisons.  The Office of National Statistics found that 9 out of 10 prisoners are mentally ill and/or suffering from the effects of alcohol and/or street drugs entering prison.  The Home Office recently said that 8,000 more prison places would be provided.  That probably means another 7,000 or so more mentally ill and addicted people will be imprisioned.

Addictions are illnesses and those with a psychiatric illness can have their condition rapidly worsened by even small amounts of alcohol and/or street drugs likes cannabis.  Professor Colin Blakemore, Head of the Medical Research Council, has commented that alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs and that it is more dangerous than LSD or cannabis.  Nevertheless the Government has allowed alcohol to be on sale for 24 hours a day and cannabis has been reduced from a Class B to a Class C drug.

Thus we punish, in increasing numbers, the mentally ill offender.  The McNaughton rules of 1843 seem to be totally ignored these days and yet these rules made it clear that if an accused person was of unsound mind they should not be punished for any criminal action they had committed.  It is a most terrible indictment of our present day society that we so often add cruel punishments to the suffering endured by the mentally ill.  They only offended because the illness had affected their body and brain chemistry and made them act in a criminal and/or violent way.

Would you write to the Home Secretary to express your digust at the large scale imprisonment of the mentally ill offender?

Ray Smith

RAY SMITH'S PRESS & MEDIA PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Media Address Date Published Article Title Author Contact
Leader-Post Regina, Canada 5 June 2007 British man keeps his promise to wife. Wrote book about her struggle with Alzheimer's disease Kevin Rollason  
Journal Pioneer 4 Queen Street, Summerside, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada   Nigel Armstrong  
Mail Star (Chronicle Herald) archived article available 1650 Argyle Street, Halifax, Canada 31 May 2007 All for the love of Grace Laura Fraser  
Toronto Star 1 Yonge Street, M5E IE6, Toronto, Canada 21 May 2007 Grabbing hold of life with Grace. Alzheimer's adventure was a backpacking trip … Judy Gerstel  
Vancouver Sun 1-200 Granville Street, Vancouver V6C 3N3 British Columbia, Canada 16 August 2007 This is what love is. Karen Gram  
TV Interviews  
The Fitzhugh Jasper, Canada 21/06/2007 "Author has his saving Grace" Bob Covey, Editor  
The Japan Times Tokyo, Japan 23/10/2004 An alternative for Alzheimer's Sufferers http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20041023f2.html Akemi Nakamura, Staff Writer  
The Straits Times Singapore 05/04/2006 A love life less ordinary Elaine Young  
Skanska Dagbladet Malmo, Sweden 26/07/2006 Alzheimerssjuka borde slippa drogas (Englishman on a mission to aid the end of drugging Alzheimers's patients. For three weeks, Ray Smith is touring Scandinavia  
Bergens Tiende 139 Argang, Krinkelkroken 1, Bergen, Norway 30/07/2006 Verdan rundt som reisende kelseprofet Rune Valderhaug This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Cyprus Mail Nicosia, Cyprus 2004 Ray Smith is a man with a mission  
Syria Times/Tishreen Press Damascus, Syria 23/03/2005 Amazing Grace - Enjoyig Alzheimer's (in Arabic and English) Fi Jarf  
The Peterborough Evening Telegraph Priestgate, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire   Ray stands firm on rainy town hall vigil Jonny Muir jonny.muir
Our Time Winship Road, Milton, Cambridge CB4 6PP August 2004 Amazing Grace - a couple's inspiring battle to overcome Alzheimer's/Couple's amazing battle to beat Alzheimer's Liza Millard  
Woman's Weekly   10/08/2004 "My own Amazing Grace"  
Yours Magazine   July 2004 Amazing Grace Rosie Sandall  
The Sunday Post 144 Port Dundas, Glasgow, Scotland G4 0HZ 12/02/2006 Yes, Grace really was amazing  
The Scotsman Edinburgh, Scotland 27/01/2005 "Everywhere we went, I would talk to her, tell her I always loved her" Jessica Kiddle  
The Scotsman Edinburgh, Scotland 29/07/1998 Love, sex, devotion - a good life in spite of Alzheimer's Jennifer Trueland  
Daily Record Glasgow 06/09/2007 "Our last journey together took us around the world for 13 years." Husband tells of amazing trip to treasure time with Alzheimer's wife  
Jedburgh News Jedburgh, Scotland out of Production Traavel the best tonic for Ray and Grace  
U3A News The Old Municipal Building, 19 East Street, Bromley, Kent BR1 1QH Summer 2004 A positive approach to Alzheimer's - World of Books Page 27 - Living with Alzheimer's  
Peterborough Herald & Post 11 Cross Street, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire Thursday 03/06/2004 Ray's story of Amazing Grace  
Lincolnshire Free Press Spalding, Lincolnshire 06/07/2004 "Tuesday Talk with Julie Williams"  
Ireland on Sunday Dublin 20/02/2005 Warning over the Alzheimer's drugs that do not work Jim Clarke  
The Lancet 32 Jamestown Road, London NW1 7BY 21/08/2004 Reclaiming dignity from despair in Alzheimer's disease. Vol 364 August 21,2004 Martha B Holstein  
The Kingdom Kerry, Southern Ireland 21/06/2005 Devoted husband tells of his Plan B for Alzheimer's care Mary Murphy  
RTE Radio Dublin 18/02/2005 Amazing Grace: Enjoying Alzheimer's Marian Finucane  
Press & Journal Aberdeen 06/11/2004 Alzheimer's sufferer took on the world - Amazing Grace's Story Angela Taylor  
Southern Reporter The Hermitage, Selkirk, Scotland TD7 4DA 08/06/2000 Ray of Hope for Grace Duncan Smith  
Rutland Times Oakham, Leicestershire 23/07/2004 Book Review - Amazing Grace Joan Williams  
BBC You & Yours, Radio 4   19/08/2004 Ray Smith Interviewed Liz Barclay  
other BBC Interviews Leicester, Coventry, Stamford 19/08/2004  
El Mundo Madrid, Spain 12/09/2005 Cienca La Vulta al Mundo con el Alzheimer  
Bolivarense Ciudad Boliva, Venezuela 06/02/2007 Alzheimer's: Living on The Positive Side  
El National Caracas, Venezuela 26 de enero Las personas con Alzheimer pueden llevar una vida feliz Vanessa Davies  
8 Fascinacion Caracas, Venezuela   Ray y Grace Smith I El amor lo puede todo! Por Alejandra Yanez: Fotos: Jorge Carras This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Auckland Herald Auckland, New Zealand March 2006 Amazing Grace: Enjoying Alzheimer's  
The Newsletter Belfast, Northern Ireland March 2005 Book Review: "Amazing Grace: Enjoying Alzheimer's"  
Rutland and Stamford Mercury Stamford, Lincolnshire 25/06/2004 How couple coped with Alzheimer's Sandra Barrowman  
The Sunday Telegraph 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DT 09/05/2004 The Saving of Grace Julia Llewellyn Smith  
Pick Me Up/You'll Never Guess IPC Media, Blue Fin Building, 100 Southwark Street, London SE1 0SU 06/09/2007 One Last Adventure Kerry Harvey Alex Noone This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Larkhall Magazine London 1998 Mr and Mrs Smith Jane Garner  
The Lancet PDF  | Print |  E-mail

Reclaiming dignity from despair in Alzheimer's disease (Martha B Holstein)

Link to text of article (copyright The Lancet) 

The Sunday Telegraph PDF  | Print |  E-mail
The Saving of Grace (Julia Llewellyn Smith)
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