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J Ment Health. 2012 Oct;21(5):485-98. doi: 10.3109/09638237.2012.664305. Epub 2012 May 1.

The prevalence of mental health disorders amongst offenders on probation: a literature review.

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Criminal Justice and Health Research Group, College of Social Science, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK.



There is increasing focus on addressing the mental health needs of offenders throughout the criminal justice system. However, there is currently a gap in the literature for a review of research into the prevalence of mental health disorders amongst offenders on probation.


To review existing literature on the prevalence of mental health disorders in probation populations in order to inform the provision of health services to this group.


A comprehensive review of the literature on the topic to date across ASSIA, Web of Science, IBSS, CINAHL and MEDLINE databases.


A total of 18 papers were identified. Four of these studies were based on probation approved premises, six on probation psychiatric services and eight on broader probation populations. The prevalence of mental illness reported varies widely across these papers.


One can tentatively conclude that there is a high prevalence of mental illness and high rates of co-morbidity in offenders on probation. However, variation in study settings and methodology make it difficult to reach firm conclusions on the likely prevalence of mental illness in probation populations from the existing literature. There is a need for further high-quality research in this area.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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