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Psychosis is more prevalent among people in prison compared with the community. Early detection is important to optimise health and justice outcomes; for some, this may be the first time they have been clinically assessed.
Determine factors associated with a first diagnosis of psychosis in prison and describe time to diagnosis from entry into prison.
This retrospective cohort study describes individuals identified for the first time with psychosis in New South Wales (NSW) prisons (2006–2012). Logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with a first diagnosis of psychosis. Cox regression was used to describe time to diagnosis from entry into prison.
Of the 38 489 diagnosed with psychosis for the first time, 1.7% (n = 659) occurred in prison. Factors associated with an increased likelihood of being diagnosed in prison (versus community) were: male gender (odds ratio (OR) = 2.27, 95% CI 1.79–2.89), Aboriginality (OR = 1.81, 95% CI 1.49–2.19), older age (OR = 1.70, 95% CI 1.37–2.11 for 25–34 years and OR = 1.63, 95% CI 1.29–2.06 for 35–44 years) and disadvantaged socioeconomic area (OR = 4.41, 95% CI 3.42–5.69). Eight out of ten were diagnosed within 3 months of reception.
Among those diagnosed with psychosis for the first time, only a small number were identified during incarceration with most identified in the first 3 months following imprisonment. This suggests good screening processes are in place in NSW prisons for detecting those with serious mental illness. It is important these individuals receive appropriate care in prison, have the opportunity to have matters reheard and possibly diverted into treatment, and are subsequently connected to community mental health services on release.
With significant numbers of individuals in the criminal justice system having mental health problems, court-based diversion programmes and liaison services have been established to address this problem.
To examine the effectiveness of the New South Wales (Australia) court diversion programme in reducing re-offending among those diagnosed with psychosis by comparing the treatment order group with a comparison group who received a punitive sanction.
Those with psychoses were identified from New South Wales Ministry of Health records between 2001 and 2012 and linked to offending records. Cox regression models were used to identify factors associated with re-offending.
A total of 7743 individuals were identified as diagnosed with a psychotic disorder prior to their court finalisation date for their first principal offence. Overall, 26% of the cohort received a treatment order and 74% received a punitive sanction. The re-offending rate in the treatment order group was 12% lower than the punitive sanction group. ‘Acts intended to cause injury’ was the most common type of the first principal offence for the treatment order group compared with the punitive sanction group (48% v. 27%). Drug-related offences were more likely to be punished with a punitive sanction than a treatment order (12% v. 2%).
Among those with a serious mental illness (i.e. psychosis), receiving a treatment order by the court rather than a punitive sanction was associated with reduced risk for subsequent offending. We further examined actual mental health treatment received and found that receiving no treatment following the first offence was associated with an increased risk of re-offending and, so, highlighting the importance of treatment for those with serious mental illness in the criminal justice system.
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