New research shows mental health support for people on probation is helping turn people away from a life of crime 

New research published in the Journal of Criminal Psychology and carried out by St Andrew’s Healthcare, has found that offering mental health support to people on probation can help reduce the likelihood of them reoffending.

The study carried out in London showed that 74% of individuals on probation committed no further offences in the 12 months following treatment. The services also had a positive impact on their mental state by helping reduce depression and anxiety.

Evidence shows that mental health problems among offenders is higher than in the general population. Estimates suggest that 70% of a given prison population have at least two mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression or personality disorder, while 70% of people on probation are considered vulnerable and show symptoms of mental health problems.

Dr James Fowler, the lead author of the study and Principal Forensic Psychologist at St Andrew’s Healthcare, explained that it’s the first time that the impact of these services have been assessed in this way. The research demonstrates that an improvement in third sector services is key to help turn offenders away from crime - be it support with mental health issues, help to treat a drink or drugs problem, assistance finding a job or housing support.

Dr James Fowler added:

“A lack of early intervention or holistic support for people with complex and challenging needs is locking offenders into a downward spiral where they’re unable to get the mental health treatment they need.

“This research clearly shows that more services like this are needed to help reduce the rate of reoffending, which in turn will lead to a reduction in the number of victims of crime.”

42-year-old Glenn recently received help from St Andrew’s while on probation. He said the treatment helped him turn away from a life of crime.

“I’ve been in and out of prison all of my life. I have obsessive compulsive disorder, PTSD and Personality Disorder and first started experiencing mental health problems when I was 14, maybe even younger.

“I didn’t received any treatment for my mental health problems while in prison, but since I’ve been on probation the support I’ve received from my probation officer and from St Andrew’s has been exceptional.

“If I hadn’t got treatment for my mental health there is a high chance that I’d be dead or back in prison. I would either have harmed myself or even killed someone else.

“Getting access to mental health treatment filled a hole in my life where I was lacking support. It allowed me to talk about my problems and deal with my angry feelings.”

As part of the research, users completed 12 therapy sessions. The participants received cognitive-behavioural therapy, a form of treatment designed to help with mood disorder. The aim of the therapy was to provide individuals with a greater understanding of the presence and function of the full range of emotions.

Further information:

  • Rather than those subject to a Mental Health Treatment Requirement, the individuals included in the study demonstrated a desire to access mental health services, independent of any pressure from their supervisory team or judiciary processes.
  • Participants from this study were selected from the probation population served by the London Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC).
  • This study took place between August 2016 and August 2017 for those receiving treatment, and through August 2018 to check for reoffending.
  • The offending rate is based on 61 individuals who completed the treatment and did not leave the area for 12 months following this treatment. 
  • The PDF version can be found here: Fowler-et-al-2019-Embedded-Services-In-Press.pdf