The Synod of the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania has taken a step towards addressing an urgent social issue seldom publicly acknowledged.
It has resolved to raise with state governments the situation of prison inmates suffering from mental illnesses.
Antony McMullen told the Synod meeting on Tuesday evening that the Synod’s justice and international mission (JIM) unit has decided to focus on this as little was being done in this area.
He reported on research indicating that the prevalence of psychiatric illnesses is three to five times higher in the prison population than in the general community.
“Improved support, in such areas as housing, family and employment assistance, can reduce reoffending rates of many people who have previously committed offences, including those who have experience of mental illness,” Mr McMullen said.
The Synod meeting resolved by consensus:
(a) to urge the Victorian and Tasmanian Governments to strengthen the capacity of their criminal justice systems to provide treatment and support to people with a mental illness;
(b) to support the full implementation of the Victorian Government’s Because mental health matters: Victorian Mental Health Reform Strategy 2009 – 2019; and
(c) to write to the Premiers, Leaders of the Opposition, and Ministers and Shadow Ministers relevant to mental health services and corrections in Victoria and Tasmania informing them of this resolution.