Prevalence of mental disorders among all justice-involved: A population-level study in Canada [2019]

More than 10 million people are imprisoned around the world, with many more who encounter the justice system. However, most studies examining the mental health burden in the justice system have examined only incarcerated individuals, with few looking at both criminal offending and victimization at the population-level. This study aimed to describe the population-level prevalence of mental disorders among the entirety of justice-involved individuals in a Canadian sample. The study was conducted using linked health and justice administrative data for all residents of Manitoba, Canada ages 18–64 between April 1, 2007 and March 31, 2012. All justice involvement (crime accusations and victimizations) and inpatient and outpatient mental disorder diagnoses (mood/anxiety, substance use, psychotic, personality disorders and suicidal behavior) were retrieved. Five-year age- and sex-adjusted prevalence of mental disorders and suicidal behaviour among those with any crime accusation and any victimization were compared to the general population of Manitoba. The study found that age- and sex-adjusted prevalence of any mental disorder was significantly higher among both adults accused of a crime and those victimized (38.9% and 38.6%, respectively) compared to the general population (26.1%). Rate ratios for specific mental disorders and suicidal behaviour were 1.4–3.6 among those accused of a crime, and 1.4–3.7 among those who were victims, compared to the general population. These findings highlight the need for urgent and expanded attention to this intersection of vulnerability. Victimization is especially an area of justice-related health that requires more attention.

Jennifer M. Hensel, Hygiea Casiano, Mariette J. Chartier, Okechukwu Ekuma, Leonard MacWilliam, Natalie Mota, Chelsey McDougall, James M.Bolton
International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, Volume 68, January–February 2020