I've been a bit remiss of late and admit to not having followed diligently the second series of 'The Lock Up' on BBC1. The main reason is it's on a bit late for me, but I did find myself staying awake last night for the last in the current series. Filmed over many months in the custody suite at Priory Road police station in Hull, these films provide some sobering and sometimes harrowing scenes which I suspect most ordinary members of the public remain blissfully unaware of.
Invariably during night shifts, most of those arrested arrive significantly under the influence of alcohol and the behaviour can range from the amusingly incoherent to the violently uncontrollable. In this particular episode it takes emergency assistance from all available officers in the whole police station to subdue an enormous Pole having a violent fit whilst withdrawing from the effects of alcohol.
Disturbing to watch though this was, like many others I suspect I found myself most concerned about the young woman carried in whilst still sat in her wheelchair. Suffering from Cerebral Palsy, she is under the influence of alcohol and very well known to the staff. She has been arrested for breaching her ASBO by virtue of behaviour towards her neighbours and proceeds to be abusive and uncooperative throughout the booking-in process.
When in her cell she finds various ways of drawing attention to herself including wetting herself claiming that she is unable to reach the toilet unaided. Apparently she has a long history of attention-seeking behaviour, hence the terms of her ASBO includes not to contact the emergency services unless there is a real emergency.
This young woman represents a small but extremely challenging group that society seems completely at a loss to know how to deal with. Giving her an ASBO certainly isn't going to do the trick and merely serves to ensure that she will go to prison, in this case for 6 months. What I always find astonishing in such cases is the unwillingness or inability on the part of society to spend a bit of time and effort in trying to find out why?
Of course in the old days that would have been probation's job, but I bet we washed our hands of her years ago saying things like 'low risk' or 'untreatable.' Sure she would possibly have been a nightmare to supervise, but you can bet she has a story to tell and she desperately wants someone to listen and take some trouble to try and understand.
I know I tend to repeat myself, but it's so bloody obvious to me that the skills of a clinical psychologist would be entirely appropriate in such a case in trying to tease out the underlying issues, but I'm repeatedly told they are too expensive and a Community Psychiatric Nurse would be cheaper. Well a CPN is entirely inappropriate, no matter how cheap, but instead society seems to feel that expensive prison is much more appropriate.
I might add that the costs and trouble for society will just keep mounting in a case like this because she is going to lose her accommodation either through more lengthy prison sentences, or eviction for bad behaviour. Why is it we can never seem to convince the bean counters that spending some money early on, and on the right things, will not only save money later on, it just might mean that people like this poor tormented and disabled woman could lead a happy and contented life.
Thank you BBC and 'The Lock Up' for bringing this kind of issue to wider attention.