More than 10 million people are currently in prison worldwide, and substantially larger numbers of ex-prisoners are living in society. Despite reported decreases in violence in many countries, repeat offending remains high across many high-income and middle-income countries. In the USA and UK, more than a third of released prisoners are reconvicted for a new crime within 2 years, and more than half within 5 years. Furthermore, about 70% of those convicted in the USA are repeat offenders. In England and Wales, this figure is estimated at 90%, and the proportion of individuals convicted who have had 15 or more previous offences has been increasing since 2008.
So begins a new paper that considers Swedish prisoners and the likelihood of reoffending with a particular focus on those with mental disorders. This opening paragraph well describes our incredible success at crime reduction – historical lows across the west – and our incredible failure – those who do end up in jail often are convicted again (and again and again).
This week’s Reading: “Psychiatric disorders and violent reoffending: a national cohort study of convicted prisoners in Sweden” by Zheng Chang et al., which was just published in The Lancet Psychiatry.
This paper may not seem immediately relevant – it draws on European data and was published in a British journal. In fact, it is. First, Canada’s prison population has a high rate of mental illness (an International Journal of Law and Psychiatry study found that a third of people entering Canadian penitentiaries met criteria for mental illness.). Second, there is growing interest in prisoners and mental health, both in Ottawa and beyond. Chang et al. helps shed light on this important issue – and perhaps even points the way to more sensible public policy. Continue reading