People caught up in the criminal justice system have far-reaching health needs and are generally of poor health, an NHS report has shown.
Comprehensive findings presented by director of public health Susan Webb examined issues such as death rates as a result of substance misuse as well as poor mental health.
The report concludes more should be done to tackle inequalities to prevent people from getting caught up in the criminal justice system.
It studied the perpetrators of crime as well as their victims and families.
The report stated that participation and joint working between agencies is carried out.
But it added a “much wider network” of people and agencies exist which could support a public health approach to dealing with the causes and effects of crime, including preventative work with children and addressing underlying attitudes and “stigma”.
“This report has described several examples of ongoing cross-sector partnership activity, which share a clear vision and a common purpose,” it states.
“What is clear is that we could do more to tackle the fundamental causes of inequality that leads to involvement in the community justice system, and take all the opportunities available to us to support people in ‘breaking out’ of the system.”
It suggests focusing on “wider societal inequalities” as a way of cutting involvement in criminal justice.
“We can do much more (collectively) to help people survive and thrive during their contact with the community justice system, and just like mental health, we should focus on ‘recovery’ and maintenance of recovery.”
The report adds that carrying out preventative work is “substantially more cost effective” than maintaining them in the system or rehabilitating.
The findings were warmly welcomed by members of Tuesday’s board meeting, particularly by Malcolm Bell, who serves as an honorary sheriff.
But he warned it would take time before change is seen.
“You can take the view that the answer to crime is to build more prisons or you can take the more enlightened view which is to take the public health approach,” he said.
“My only caution is that the actions you are proposing here will take many years to come through.”