Episode 2 of 'Strangeways' on ITV 1 proved just as shocking and depressing as the first in highlighting the sad case of Dave. Refusing to conform by insisting he couldn't walk and regularly soiling his bed, he resolutely insisted that he needed to be in psychiatric hospital and as a way of getting there became ever more determined to cause the prison system as much trouble as possible.
What struck me was that no one seemed able or willing to spend any serious amounts of time with him trying to get to understand him and his problems. He was in effect just a management problem interrupting the smooth operation of an institution. On the medical wing the staff spent much time discussing whether he was mentally ill or not. Indeed there was much talk about other prisoners possibly having mental health problems, but absolutely no recognition that the problems might be psychological or emotional.
I find this surprising given the huge increase in psychological provision within the prison system over recent years, but possibly the explanation is that they are focused on risk assessments, rather than the need to deliver talking therapies. I think that virtually all the highly disturbed prisoners I've seen in this TV series would benefit enormously from such a therapeutic approach, but that requires particular skills that so far has been conspicuously absent.
Dave's future is bleak indeed, because when 'Care in the Community' was ushered in as a replacement for the large institutions that would have had a place for him, the money and replacement community services never materialised. I'm positive there are lots of Dave's in the prison system. Ken Clarke knows this as well and we wait with interest to see how he intends to get his colleagues in other departments to 'step up to the plate' and take responsibility for the likes of Dave. Draft legislation is due any time soon.