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Recidivism rates increased in prisoners with mental health disorders

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Recidivism rates increased in prisoners with mental health disorders


Investigating whether mental illness is a risk factor for multiple episodes of incarceration.

MedWire News: Prisoners with mental health disorders, particularly those with bipolar disorder, are more likely to re-offend than their mentally healthy counterparts, US researchers report in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

“Although numerous investigations have reported substantially elevated rates of psychiatric disorders among prison inmates compared with the general population, it is unclear whether mental illness is a risk factor for multiple episodes of incarceration,” Jacques Baillargeon (University of Texas Medical Branch in Galverston, USA) and colleagues explain.

To investigate, the researchers studied data on 79,211 Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmates who began a prison sentence between 2006 and 2007. They used state-wide information systems to gather data on each inmate’s demographic characteristics, history of incarceration for the preceding 6-year period, and history of psychiatric disorders.

In total, 7878 inmates had been diagnosed with major psychiatric disorders, including major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other psychotic disorders.

Analysis revealed that inmates with major psychiatric disorders were significantly more likely to have been incarcerated on more than one occasion than those without a psychiatric condition. The risk of multiple incarcerations was greatest among inmates with bipolar disorder, who were 3.3 times more likely to have been incarcerated several times than their mentally healthy counterparts.

“Our finding that inmates with psychiatric disorders have an increased risk of having multiple incarcerations has important policy implications,” write Baillargeon and team.

They add: “Addressing this public health crisis adequately will require the continued development of novel and integrated interventions, such as mental health courts, continuity of care programs, and the development of specialised correctional mental health facilities.

“Given the scale and complexity of this problem, it is likely that a coordinated effort among criminal justice, mental health, and public health systems will be necessary to reduce the widespread criminalization of the mentally ill in America.”

MedWire is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a part of Springer Science+Business Media. © Current Medicine Group Ltd; 2009

  a.. Am J Psychiatry 2009; 166: 103–109

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