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Journal: International journal of law and psychiatry


Police agencies in Canada and elsewhere have received much criticism over how they respond to persons with serious mental disorders. The adequacy of training provided to police officers on mental health issues and in particular on recognizing indicators of serious mental disorders has been a major concern. This paper describes the process that led to the development of a new brief mental health screener (interRAI Brief Mental Health Screener, BMHS) designed to assist police officers to better identify persons with serious mental disorders. The interRAI BMHS was developed in collaboration with interRAI, an international, not-for-profit consortium of researchers. The government of Ontario had previously partnered with interRAI to develop and implement the Resident Assessment Instrument for Mental Health (RAI-MH), the assessment system mandated for use on all persons admitted into inpatient psychiatric care in the province. Core items on the interRAI BMHS were obtained through analysis (N=41,019) of RAI-MH data together with input from representatives from health care, police services, and patient groups. Two police services in southwestern Ontario completed forms (N=235) on persons thought to have a mental disorder. Patient records were later accessed to determine patient disposition. The use of summary and inferential statistics revealed that the variables significantly associated with being taken to hospital by police included performing a self-injurious act in the past 30days, and others being concerned over the person’s risk for self-injury. Variables significantly associated with being admitted included abnormal thought process, delusions, and hallucinations. The results of the study indicate that the 14-variable algorithm used to construct the interRAI BMHS is a good predictor of who was most likely to be taken to hospital by police officers and who was most likely to be admitted. The instrument is an effective means of capturing and standardizing police officer observations enabling them to provide more and better quality information to emergency department (ED) staff. Teaching police officers to use the form constitutes enhanced training on major indicators of serious mental disorders. Further, given that items on the interRAI BMHS are written in the language of the health system, language acts as common currency between police officers and ED staff laying the foundation for a more collaborative approach between the systems.

Concepts: Psychology, Medicine, Mental health, Mental disorder, Abnormal psychology, Schizophrenia, Psychiatry, Police


Public perception, fueled not only by popular and news media but also by expert claims that psychopaths are archetypes of evil: incorrigible, remorseless, cold-blooded criminals, whose crimes manifest in the most extreme levels of violence. But is there empirical evidence that psychopaths truly are what they are portrayed to be? If so, should the law respond, and adjust its treatment of psychopaths in court - permitting psychopathy to be admitted under an insanity defense and/or resulting in mitigation? In this paper, we demonstrate that fundamental questions from the law to science remain unanswered and must be addressed before any alternative treatment of psychopathy can be considered. As it stands, psychopaths cannot be reliably defined or diagnosed and, as we will demonstrate, even the presumed link with criminal dangerousness is problematic. We conclude that the current legal approach should not be modified, however, if preliminary findings regarding impairments in impulsivity/self-control are confirmed, some, but not all individuals who fall under one definition of psychopathy may merit different treatment in future.

Concepts: Law, Crime, Mental disorder, Criminology, Antisocial personality disorder, Psychopathy, Insanity defense, Remorse


The relative contributions of psychiatric morbidity and psychosocial stress to suicide, and the efficacy of mental health systems in reducing population suicide rates, are currently unclear. This study, therefore, aimed to investigate whether national suicide rates are associated with their corresponding mental health system indicators.

Concepts: Health economics, Medicine, Epidemiology, Demography, Sociology, Mental disorder, Psychiatry, Health care system


Women are entering US prisons at nearly double the rate of men and are the fastest growing prison population. Current extant literature focuses on the prevalence of the incarceration of women, but few studies exist that emphasize the different trajectories to prison. For example, women prisoners have greater experiences of prior victimization, more reports of mental illness, and higher rates of illicit substance use. The purpose of this study was to understand the prevalence of childhood victimization and its association with adult mental health problems, substance abuse disorders, and further sexual victimization. The research team interviewed a random sample of 125 women prisoners soon to be released from prison to gather information on their childhood physical and sexual victimization, mental health and substance abuse problems as an adult, and sexual victimization in the year preceding incarceration. Results indicate that women prisoners in this sample, who were both physically and sexually victimized as children, were more likely to be hospitalized as an adult for a psychological or emotional problem. Women who were sexually victimized or both physically and sexually victimized were more likely to attempt suicide. Women who experienced physical victimization as children and women who were both physically and sexually victimized were more likely to have a substance use disorder and women who were sexually abused as children or both physically and sexually victimized were more likely to be sexually abused in the year preceding prison. This article ends with a discussion about prisons' role in providing treatment for women prisoners and basing this treatment on women’s trajectories to prison, which disproportionately include childhood victimization and subsequent mental health and substance use problems.

Concepts: Mental disorder, Prison, Abuse, Substance abuse, Bullying, Victimisation, Recidivism, Victim blaming


The experience of hearing a voice in the absence of an appropriate external stimulus, formally termed an auditory verbal hallucination (AVH), may be malingered for reasons such as personal financial gain, or, in criminal cases, to attempt a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. An accurate knowledge of the phenomenology of AVHs is central to assessing the veracity of claims to such experiences. We begin by demonstrating that some contemporary criminal cases still employ inaccurate conceptions of the phenomenology of AVHs to assess defendants' claims. The phenomenology of genuine, malingered, and atypical AVHs is then examined. We argue that, due to the heterogeneity of AVHs, the use of typical properties of AVHs as a yardstick against which to evaluate the veracity of a defendant’s claims is likely to be less effective than the accumulation of instances of defendants endorsing statements of atypical features of AVHs. We identify steps towards the development of a formal tool for this purpose, and examine other conceptual issues pertinent to criminal cases arising from the phenomenology of AVHs.

Concepts: Auditory system, Experience, Knowledge, Psychosis, Logic, Reason, Legal terms, Insanity defense


OBJECTIVE: This study reports the prevalence of emotional and behavioral problems among youths placed in juvenile correctional facilities in Jordan and describes the effect of length of stay on mental health outcomes. METHOD: The Youth Self Report (YSR) was administered to 187 adolescent males (mean age=16.4, SD=1.0) in all five juvenile detention facilities in Jordan in 2011. Descriptive statistics were calculated to estimate the prevalence of emotional and behavioral problems. Logistic regression models were estimated to evaluate the impact of placement length on mental health. Statistical models were weighted by the youth propensity to be ‘long-stay’ youths (>23weeks) based on preplacement case characteristics. RESULTS: The prevalence of clinically significant emotional and behavioral problems was 84%. 46% had YSR scores above the clinical cutpoint in both the internalizing and externalizing subscales. 24% of youths reported suicidal ideation. The high prevalence of emotional and behavioral disorders was stable across placement for most YSR subscales. CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of emotional and behavioral disorders among detained and incarcerated youth in Jordan mirrors the literature worldwide. These findings suggest that serious mental health problems for many youths persist throughout placement.

Concepts: Psychology, Regression analysis, Logistic regression, Statistics, Childhood, Mental disorder, Prison, Youth detention center


Prenatal alcohol exposure is the leading identifiable cause of intellectual disability in the Western world and may result in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Individuals with FASD have a higher risk of being involved in the legal system, either as offenders or as victims. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to estimate the direct cost for youths (12-17years old) and adults (18+ years old) with FASD to the Canadian correctional system in 2011/2012. The prevalence of FASD in the Canadian correctional system, obtained from the current epidemiological literature, was applied to the average number of youths and adults in the correctional system in 2011/2012. The average daily cost for corrections was then applied to the estimated number of youths and adults with FASD in custody. The cost of corrections among youths with FASD in Canada in 2011/2012 was calculated to be approximately $17.5M Canadian dollars (CND; $13.6M CND for males and $3.8M CND for females) and among adults with FASD was estimated to be about $356.2M CND ($140M CND for provincial and territorial custody and $216.2M CND for federal custody). The study findings emphasize the need to raise awareness regarding the prevalence of FASD in the correctional system. It is crucial to incorporate FASD screening and intervention strategies as early as possible in the criminal justice process.

Concepts: Alcohol, Pregnancy, Crime, Mental retardation, Prison, Criminal justice, Corrections, Fetal alcohol syndrome


While studies confirm high prevalence of language disorder among justice-involved young people, little is known about the impact of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) on language among this population. It is also not clear how language skills vary according to language diversity in Australian youth justice settings, where a disproportionate number of justice-involved youth are Aboriginal and may not speak Standard Australian English (SAE) as their first language. Language skills are important to understand, as language disorder and language difference can lead to a mismatch between the communication skills of a young person and the communication skills of the justice workforce with whom they are communicating. In the highly verbal environments that are common to justice systems, language disorder and language difference may result in a young person misunderstanding legal information and expectations placed on them and not being adequately understood by the justice workforce.


Article 12 of the UNCRPD on equal recognition before the law, places an obligation on member states to ‘provide access by persons with disabilities to the support they may require in exercising their legal capacity’. This has resulted in an increased focus on the concept and practice of supported decision-making, as opposed to substitute decision-making, for those with cognitive disabilities. To date, translation of this concept into law has been limited. However, Law Reform Agencies, tasked with reviewing legal decision-making schemes are increasingly recommending incorporation of legally recognised supported decision-making measures. This paper identifies the contribution of Law Reform Agencies' reports and recommendations to the evolving body of knowledge in relation to supported decision-making. In particular, it analyses the rationales for recommendations favouring the introduction of forms of legally recognised supported decision-making and the types of legal models of supported decision-making being recommended by Law Reform Agencies.


It has been suggested that released prisoners experience a unique set of mental health symptoms related to, but not limited to, post-traumatic stress disorder. We sought to empirically assess whether there is a recognizable post-incarceration syndrome that captures the unique effects of incarceration on mental health. We conducted in-depth life interviews with 25 released “lifers” (individuals serving a life sentence), who served an average of 19years in a state correctional institution. We assessed to what extent the symptoms described by the participants overlapped with other mental disorders, most notably PTSD. The narratives indicate a specific cluster of mental health symptoms: In addition to PTSD, this cluster was characterized by institutionalized personality traits, social-sensory disorientation, and alienation. Our findings suggest that post-incarceration syndrome constitutes a discrete subtype of PTSD that results from long-term imprisonment. Recognizing Post-Incarceration Syndrome may allow for more adequate recognition of the effects of incarceration and treatment among ex-inmates and ultimately, successful re-entry into society.

Concepts: Sociology, Mental disorder, Abnormal psychology, Complex post-traumatic stress disorder, Posttraumatic stress disorder, Stress, Prison, Life imprisonment