Our secure 'hospitals' are prisons by any other name

Share

The House of Commons Select Committee on Health published a stinging report yesterday, arguing that secure hospitals such as Broadmoor, Rampton and Ashworth should be closed down. The arguments are unassailable. The word "hospital" is used. These are, however, prisons by any other name. They are of benefit neither to the inmates nor to society.

The House of Commons Select Committee on Health published a stinging report yesterday, arguing that secure hospitals such as Broadmoor, Rampton and Ashworth should be closed down. The arguments are unassailable. The word "hospital" is used. These are, however, prisons by any other name. They are of benefit neither to the inmates nor to society.

The report rightly suggests that the main reason for keeping existing institutions open is "political expedience". Millions of pounds are spent every year - and for what? Each of the 1,300 patients held in Ashworth on Merseyside, in Rampton, Nottinghamshire, and in Broadmoor, Berkshire costs the taxpayer around £100,000 a year. This makes no sense at all. Nor, as yesterday's report makes clear, is this the way to ensure "the most appropriate and secure provision".

This report is just the latest in recent years to make the same point - though the language has become increasingly testy in recent years as it became clear that neither Conservative nor Labour governments were eager to take any notice of such sober counsel. In 1988, the Health Advisory Service noted that time was "running out" for Broadmoor; four years later, an inquiry into Ashworth spoke of the "brutalising regime" there. In 1999, the Fallon inquiry into Ashworth - after it was discovered that a young girl and large quantities of pornography had been smuggled into the hospital - argued that the managers were "totally unable" to control it, and recommended that Ashworth should close.

All of these recommendations were ignored. There comes a moment when reform is not enough, and when it is necessary to tear things up and start again. That point has been reached. The Government must acknowledge what so many people have argued for so long. Severe psychological disorders are extraordinarily difficult to deal with. In the overwhelming majority of cases, however, people with these difficulties are as much a danger to themselves as they are to others.

We should return to the old use of the word "asylum", where patients find themselves in a place of refuge. We must distinguish clearly between the Peter Sutcliffes of this world, who are an obvious threat to society, and those who, though disturbed, do not need to be kept in such high-security conditions. The Select Committee is right to argue that a smaller number of secure units would be of benefit to all. After so many years, the Government no longer has any reason to delay.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

 

Naturism criminalised: Why not being able to bare all is a bummer

Simon Usborne
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried