Mental Health Treatment Requirement can address Offending

  • A new report shows that Mental Health Treatment Requirement (MHTR) can address a root cause of offending behaviour.

     Self Portrait 2A new report released today by the Centre for Mental Health and the Criminal Justice Alliance show how if the treatment for mental health is enforced in community sentences, it will improve people's mental health and in turn reduce reoffending.

    This will only happen if the requirement is used by sentencers, with the right support from health services, say Centre for Mental Health and the Criminal Justice Alliance.

    While 39% of offenders in the probation caseload have a mental health condition, there has been a surprisingly low uptake of the MHTR to date. According to a new report released by the two organisations today, The Mental Health Treatment Requirement, the MHTR is used in fewer than 1% of all Community Sentences. Yet for people who are given the requirement it can be a valuable source of support to bring their life 'from chaos to stability'.

    Today's changes to the legal framework for the MHTR include widening the range of health professionals who can assess a person's mental health needs, and giving the courts greater flexibility in responding to breach of a Community Order. These changes, the report suggests, will remove some of the barriers to greater use of the MHTR.

    However the report also warns that the proposed changes to the community sentencing in the Crime and Courts Bill, specifically the proposal for all Community Orders to contain a 'punitive element' may mean that the emphasis in sentencing will no longer focus on addressing root causes of offending and the MHTR will remain underused.

    The report makes a number of further recommendations, including that training and information on mental health and the MHTR should be made available to criminal justice staff. And health professionals should also be given more information on the MHTR and their role in delivering it.

    Sean Duggan, chief executive of Centre for Mental Health said:

    We hope that increasing the flexibility of the MHTR will mean that it is used more by sentencers and we welcome these changes. The evidence shows that, used appropriately, the MHTR can have a real impact on engaging offenders in mental health treatment, which greatly improves their chances of turning away from offending behaviour.

    However we are extremely concerned about the inclusion of a mandatory punitive element in the Community Order. For a person with a mental health condition or learning disability, and especially someone with complex needs, a focus on punishment instead of rehabilitation can 'set them up to fail,' as they may find it difficult or even impossible to comply with some of the conditions without adequate support.

    Ultimately this approach will do little to reduce reoffending or to make our communities safer.

    Vicki Helyar-Cardwell, Director of the Criminal Justice Alliance said:

    The government's impact assessment, published alongside the community penalty proposals, admits that punitive elements could displace rehabilitative ones such as mental health treatment or alcohol treatment, which may undermine efforts to reducing reoffending.

    As the Bill comes before the House of Lords next week, we urge peers to ensure the Courts can prioritise the most effective sentence for people with mental health problems.

    Source: Centre For Mental Health

     

     Image source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/747910

     

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