Sir, – "Ireland's justice and health systems are failing people in the prison system who are mentally ill" according to the report published by the Mental Health Commission (November 15th).
Having spent a number of years visiting all prisons in this State as a member of the Sentence Review Group, and witnessed the number of reports written over that time, I can state with respect that it is not a new phenomenon.
Working with people who are homeless for nearly half a century, we continue to see people struggling to cope with serious mental health issues, so often ending up in Garda stations, the only door open to them.
We have heard some people say prison offered them a welcome respite, in this day and age we should and must do better. Prison continues to be a dumping ground for so many of society’s problems that should be addressed, long before imprisonment takes place.
I have met so many committed healthcare workers, prison staff and others working in various disciplines, not forgetting the struggling relatives who have often felt themselves isolated in a bureaucratic world when they attempt to describe their difficulties and seek help and support.
Some readers will remember the much publicised Care in the Community of some years back, it was never properly planned or resourced and remains a mirage.
What we witness still is a reminder of how we dealt with problems in the recent past and with the assurances that it could never happen again. All sections of society have a role to play in acknowledging and addressing this very serious problem. Everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.
– Yours, etc,
Director of Services,
Alice Leahy Trust,