BHB psychiatrist pens standard on prison care
A consultant forensic psychiatrist with the Bermuda Hospitals Board has helped create a new standard for how prisoners with health problems could be treated.
Seb Henagulph was one of 11 psychiatrists tasked to create the Prison Public Health Position Statement for the World Psychiatric Association to help prison healthcare providers and governments internationally.
And while Dr Henagulph said that Bermuda meets most of the standards set out in the paper, he added that there is room for improvement.
“More effective rehabilitation services for prisoners and the provision of a fully independent prison healthcare service are two recommendations we could work on in Bermuda,” he said. “The World Health Organisation recommends that providers of prison healthcare should be fully independent from the justice system.”
Dr Henagulph was asked to join the task force by Andrew Forrester, who serves as the joint chair of the task force and clinical director of the Offender Health Research Network at the University of Manchester.
“It was a virtual group over the last two years, with Dr Forrester and Dr Mary Piper the joint chairs,” said Dr Henagulph. “They approached various psychiatrists with experience in working in prisons, trying to be as international as possible.”
The consultation group included psychiatrists from India, Egypt, Australia, Canada, the UK and Bermuda. The comments, discussions and the various international perspectives were collated and the position paper ratified at a consensus meeting of the World Psychiatric Association in Cape Town, South Africa, last November 2016.
But while the paper clearly sets out a standard which countries can adopt, Dr Henagulph pointed out that it is not mandatory.
“It's not legally binding like a UN convention or anything similar,” he said. “It's more a position statement which the World Psychiatric Association will use to negotiate with governments who are not meeting the standards and encourage them to improve conditions. Psychiatrists in countries with poor prison conditions can also use it to inform their governments of needed changes.
“Prisoners as a whole tend to have chaotic lives with multiple physical, mental and social health issues and can be difficult to engage in treatment in the community. It makes sense from a public health perspective to provide the highest level of care possible while they are incarcerated.”