Prison transfers to special hospitals since the introduction of the Mental Health Act 1983
Larkin, Emmet P.
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Research on prisoners transferred to Special Hospitals during the currency of the Mental Health Act 1959 raised concerns about delays in transfer, prisoners being transferred late in their sentence, and prisoners, often sex offenders, being detained in hospital for prolonged periods. The latter gave rise to worry that the Special Hospitals were being used to detain patients preventively. This study dealt with sentenced prisoners transferred to the three Special Hospitals of England and Wales after the introduction of the Mental Health Act 1983. Its purpose was to consider whether the concerns raised earlier remained valid. The records of all patients transferred from prison to Special Hospital during the period 1984-91 were reviewed. Of all admissions to the Special Hospitals, 351 (23%) were transferred prisoners. The admission characteristics of the transferred group were similar to those of other referrals. The results failed to confirm the earlier concerns. In most cases prisoners were transferred to hospital within 2 months of being assessed. There was little evidence that transfer was being used to lengthen a prison sentence and no evidence that time spent in hospital reflected the gravity of the offence.