Although the number of older people serving community sentences (probation) after conviction for a criminal offence in England and Wales has increased rapidly since about 2006, this population has received little research attention.
To examine the mental health, substance use, and executive functioning of older probationers.
Thirty‐two male probationers aged 50 years and older were recruited from probation services in the Thames Valley, England, and administered validated semistructured interviews for psychiatric disorders, symptom checklists for depression and substance use, cognitive impairment screens, and neuropsychological tests of executive functioning (examining verbal fluency and response inhibition).
We found that older probationers presented with a high prevalence of mental health difficulties (overall caseness n = 22; 69%, 95% CI [53–85]) that exceed estimates in the older general population. Prevalences of depression (25%) or alcohol abuse or dependence (19%) were found to be high. In comparison with normative data, however, older probationers did not present with deficits in tested executive functioning.
Conclusions and implications for practice
Mental health and substance use problems were more prominent than cognitive deficits in this sample of older probationers. Further work should include older community controls to inform service planning and to determine how these mental health factors interact with offending.