The imprisonment of offenders with mental health problems has long been one of the more dismaying and unsettling aspects of penal practice and one which has aroused considerable controversy over the years. Walker (1968:30) observes that when the first prisons started to be built in the thirteenth century, they became an ‘obvious place for the violent lunatic’. Certainly, by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries there is evidence that the Bridewells and houses of correction were used to confine some of the ‘more dangerous or

troublesome lunatics’ (Scull, 1993:16). By the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, prison reformers like John Howard and Elizabeth Fry noted with disapproval the presence of the insane within penal institutions.