Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform CORE ISSUE:  Decriminalization of mental health and addictive disorders.

People displaying mental health problems in public were held in police cells on more than 4,500 occasions in the last year, a fall of almost a third compared with the previous year, figures show.

Police custody was used to accommodate individuals held under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 4,537 times in 2014/15, down from 6,667 times, according to data collected from police forces in England and Wales.

Last month the home secretary, Theresa May, announced a crackdown on the practice, telling police officers at their annual conference in Bournemouth: “Nobody wins when the police are sent to look after people suffering from mental health problems. Vulnerable people don’t get the care they need and deserve, and the police can’t get on with the job they are trained to do.”

Section 136 allows police to take people to a place of safety when they are in a public place. They can do this if they think the person has a mental illness and is in need of care.

The number of times people aged under 18 were taken to police custody under section 136 fell from 256 to 161, a 37% reduction, and the total use of the rule by police fell 11.5% to 23,128.

The declines follow a government announcement that it would legislate to prohibit the use of police cells as “places of safety” for those under 18 and reduce the current 72-hour maximum detention period for adults.

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