Pounds 500m 'Squandered' on Scheme to Help Dangerous Prisoners

Article excerpt

Experiment is branded 'unscientific and ineffective' as thousands of mentally ill offenders go untreated

Nearly 500m has been squandered on an experimental scheme to treat Britain's most dangerous offenders which experts have branded "ineffective", "unscientific" and "wasteful".

A new report by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health (SCMH) found tens of millions of pounds are spent every year on a few hundred offenders, many of whom will never be released from prison or hospital, while thousands of other mentally disordered prisoners are left untreated and thus more likely to reoffend.

The report, Blurring Boundaries, to be published this week, calls on the Government to "phase out" the programme, which has admitted about 450 murderers, rapists and other violent offenders in the past nine years. This puts the cost of treatment for offenders in the four dangerous and serious personality disorder (DSPD) units at just over 1m per person.

Research into the controversial DSPD programmes has been overwhelmingly critical as little evidence of psychological or social improvements have been found. Condemnation mounted after it became clear that it would be impossible to know if the multimillion- pound experiment reduces the risk of reoffending because the Government refuses to change the selection process needed to make proper evaluation possible.

Max Rutherford, the report's author, said: "The research we have so far is unanimous: after nearly 10 years the programmes are ineffective and some people actually get a bit worse. There is no risk to the public if the programmes were to stop today, yet tens of thousands of prisoners have no access to services which could help them and protect the public."

The controversial programmes were set up at Frankland and Whitemoor prisons and two high-security hospitals after the Government promised to "deal with the most dangerous offenders" in 2001. …