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Priest says prisons being used as asylums for mentally ill

The Director of Jesuit Social Services (JSS) has criticised the Victorial Government's move to provide an additional 900 prison cells while it says there has been a decrease in serious crime in Victoria.

Fr Peter Norden was commenting on a report identifying a trend towards using prison cells to incarcerate the mentally ill.

The Victorian Government has announced an additional 900 prisons cells in Victoria at the same time as a research paper has documented that there has been a 35 per cent increase in prison numbers in the past three years, despite !

"Retiring Police Commissioner, Neil Comrie, rightly congratulated himself on a reduction in serious crime in recent years" said former Pentridge Prison chaplain Fr Peter Norden. "Our research paper, coincidentally released [on Thursday], identified the need for better community mental health services, not prisons."

"Victoria is using its prisons as the new asylums of the 21st century and the government is expanding the system to incarcerate the mentally ill whose needs are being neglected in the wider community" he added.

"While more people are now aware of the link between marijuana use and the early onset of psychosis in young people, fewer are aware of what is a far more widespread phenomenon: young Australians becoming addicted as a way of dealing with serious mental health needs unmet by existing services" he concluded.

The Jesuit Social Services position paper "Heroin use as a form of self-medication" is intended to ask mental health professionals, government policy makers, politicians and community leaders to recognize the growing problem of young Australians becoming addicted to dangerous drugs because of a pre-existingmental health illness.