Supporting BAME Mental Health in the Criminal Justice System 

Supporting BAME Mental Health in the Criminal Justice System 

In 2016, the NHS published The Five Year Forward View For Mental Health. A critical part of the report was setting out pathways for people from BAME communities to effectively seek out mental health support while in the criminal justice system.  

For many BAME individuals, mental health and the criminal justice system are heavily intertwined. The report noted that, for many, the first experience of mental health care comes when they are detained under the Mental Health Act, which often involves the police. 

The creation of these pathways is a massive step in the right direction, but how can we, as a language provider, continue to support BAME mental health in prison settings during COVID-19?  

Adapting Pathways to COVID-19 

Just as all aspects of healthcare have been forced to adapt, methods of secure care in mental health settings have been changed by the current outbreak of COVID-19. Updated guidance by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the NHS insists that pathways must be created to ensure those within the criminal justice system have access to information on COVID-19, social distancing, and how to continue communication with their loved ones and professionals 

This is where the language industry fits in. 

Making the connection between the guidance on secure care and BAME communities is essential in ensuring an inclusive response is devised to tackle mental health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.   

Interpreting in a prison setting has always adhered to different rules than standardised medical interpreting. Remote technology and isolated service users have always been a big part of secure communication support. This is why telephone interpreting is well suited to support BAME individuals with their mental health in these settings.  

  • Telephone interpreting is easily accessible. 
  • The service can be accessed from any working telephone. 
  • Conference calling is available, linking service users with interpreters, clinicians, and family members. 
  • Preserves safety, as social distancing and isolation in the case of symptoms is adhered to at all times. 

Face to Face interpreting and Secure Cure  

However, on the other hand, we understand that sometimes – especially in the case of mental health interpreting – a face to face interpreter is necessary.  

Recently, we received a face to face request from a local mental health trust in HMP Birmingham and one of our specialised Czech interpreters attended the booking. When we checked in on Monika after the booking, as interpreter well-being is something very important to us, she happily reported that she felt: 

“very safe. Secure codes were used to access each area and I was offered full PPE – including a mask, apron, and gloves.” 

While the option of remote interpreting was offered to the client, they felt that the service user’s needs required the use of a face to face interpreter. Mental health interpreting often makes the visual cues and comfort of an in-person interpreter necessary. We understand that the service user’s needs will always come first, and we will never stand in the way of that.  

Interpreter safety in secure settings has always been a priority. By ensuring PPE is provided, even when a safe distance can be maintained, we can continue to supply safe and coherent communication support to BAME individuals in the criminal justice system. 

If you would like some more information on how we provide communication support to the criminal justice system and beyond, please contact us on 0121 554 1981 or email at 


Written by Portia C

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