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COVID-19 and prisons: Providing mental health care for people in prison, minimising moral injury and psychological distress in mental health staff
28 May 2020
Kothari R, Forrester A, Greenberg N, Sarkissian, Tracy DK
Introduction The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic presents substantial challenges to global health and social care systems. Mental health services have faced restrictions in service delivery, risking the deterioration of already vulnerable individuals. Mental health staff have been working with new risks, in unfamiliar ways,for which they often feel inexperienced and untrained, for example accessing and using personal protective equipment (PPE). Prisons face unique additional hazards to both prisoners and staff. Public Health England’s recent report describes limited and variable COVID-19 testing, concerns about an outbreak in prisons and the unsuccessful follow-through of the early release strategy which, according to modelling, would considerably reduce deaths from COVID-19. The report also highlights the longer-term challenges.1 Whilst recognising these additional difficulties, we argue that there is precedent and evidence from which we can learn. We propose ways to optimise the support to staff and prisoners.