NSW treatment of mentally ill prisoners takes a step backward

As of 2 April, mentally ill inmates in Long Bay Prison Hospital will be locked in their cells in solitary confinement for 17 hours a day, every day.

Currently, patients at the Hospital are allowed to stay out of their cells until 9pm in the evening. Under the new regime, prisoners will be locked down in their cells from 3.45pm every afternoon, and not allowed out again until 8.15am the next morning.

CEO of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Robin Banks said, ‘Three out of the four wards at Long Bay Prison Hospital are filled with people with mental illness. This already vulnerable group of the prison population should not be locked up in a cell for 17 hours a day, many effectively in isolation. This is an 18th century response to mental illness, and the NSW Government ought to be ashamed.’

Long periods of time spent alone in confinement have been shown to exacerbate symptoms of mental illness. These symptoms can include paranoia, anxiety, depression and irritability.

‘Mentally ill inmates are transferred to the Prison Hospital for treatment. Being locked down in a prison regime will have a detrimental impact on health outcomes for people with mental illness who are transferred to the Prison Hospital,’ Ms Banks added.

PIAC believes that to place people with mental illness alone in their cells for 17 hours a day is draconian, cruel and inhumane and ultimately, unjustifiable.

PIAC urges the NSW Government to change its policy on this issue immediately.

For more information contact Robin Banks, Chief Executive, PIAC on 02 8898 6508.

MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,

Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169

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