We started this review because we were concerned by the circumstances in which two women with acute mental health needs were moved from Bandyup Women’s Prison to the state’s only secure forensic mental health facility, the Frankland Centre. We aimed to examine the safety of transporting prisoners to the Frankland Centre.
To get a full picture, we chose to look at how people were managed before the transfer and after their return. In doing so, we discovered a larger problem, that many people do not make it to clinical inpatient setting at all. They remain in prison even though they have been identified as needing clinical care in a specialised hospital. The review expanded to examine this issue in more detail.
Prisoners mental health
Prisoners are more likely to have experienced risk factors which cause mental illness when compared to the rest of the community. These risk factors include being socially excluded or isolated; poverty, neglect, abuse or trauma; misusing drugs or alcohol; having poor physical health; or having a physical or intellectual disability (COAG, 2012). In 2015, almost half of the people entering prison in Australia (49%) had reported being told by health professional that they had a mental health disorder (AIHW, 2015). This was an increase from 38 per cent in 2012. The report also stated that more than a quarter of people entering prison (27%) were taking medication prescribed for mental health conditions (AIHW, 2015).
In November 2017, the mental health teams in the Department of Justice (the Department) were providing close support to approximately 10 per cent of the prison population (DOJ, 2017). This is over 600 people, 218 of whom require treatment in clinical conditions.
Western Australia only has one secure forensic mental health inpatient facility, the Frankland Centre. It is located at Graylands Hospital in Mount Claremont. It caters for all people needing care in a clinical setting while in custody. Therefore, it is used for men, women and, on the rare occasion, young people in detention. The Centre only has 30 acute beds and eight subacute beds.