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Prison population

Psychiatric patients stage fence-climbing "prison break" from mental health treatment center

Wednesday, October 11, 2006 by: Jerome Douglas
Tags: prison population, psychiatric medicine, health news

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(NewsTarget) Psychiatric patients in England are climbing fences over 20 feet in height in order to break out of mental facilities, according to an investigation by the BBC's Inside Out. The television program filmed mentally ill patients climbing the fence at Southampton's Royal South Hants hospital on five separate days.

Apparently, 26 patients have climbed over the fence in the past four years.

One woman with a son in the Southampton hospital told the BBC that her son had tried to escape more than 50 times in a couple of months. She told Inside Out that "my son is very low. I don't know if he's headed to the nearest bridge to jump."

The fact that the hospital is not a secure environment is a real danger, as many of the patients have unpredictable behavior and have the potential to hurt themselves or others, according to the BBC.

Martin Barkley, the Hampshire Partnership NHS Trust's chief executive that was part of the Inside Out report, said that work would start soon to make the fence harder to climb. But Barkley said some patients were free to leave, and denied that confined patients had been trying to escape on a daily basis.

Barkley stated to the BBC that "On average it has been one patient every two months since 2002, except in July and August of this year when there has been an escalation in that behavior." He added that "It is not a secure hospital that is geared up to keep patients in hospital who are determined by whatever means to leave."

The BBC's Inside Out program also showed its footage to the man responsible for safeguarding these kind of patients in England.

Chris Heginbotham, chief executive of the Mental Health Act Commission, said he would be sending one of his commissioners to talk about security issues in light of all the recent escape attempts. Heginbothm added, "It is really very surprising that a patient was able to climb out in broad daylight."

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