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Offender health information


People in contact with the Criminal Justice System suffer from some of the starkest health inequalities in the country, with higher health needs and worse health outcomes than the general population.  Many in this group engage in high risk behaviour, do not access primary care services, and do not manage existing health issues effectively.  They are over-represented in emergency services, resulting in greater cost to the system and less positive outcomes.

  • 70% of prisoners are not registered with a GP
  • 72% of male and 70% of female sentenced prisoners suffer from two or more mental disorders - compared with 5% of men and 2% of women in the general population
  • 46% of female prisoners and 21% of male prisoners report having attempted suicide at least once in their life, compared to 6% of the general population
  • 25% of women and 15% of men in prison report symptoms indicative of psychosis. The rate among the general public is about 4%
  • 51% of adults supervised in the community have a long-term medical condition or disability
  • 11% of people in prison have a physical disability, 18% have a mental disability, and 7% have both - almost twice the rates of the general population
  • 62% of prisoners screen positive for personality disorder
  • Approximately 4 times as many people in prison smoke than in the general population
  • 38% of people surveyed in prison say they have an alcohol problem
  • 20-30% of people in prison are estimated to have a learning disability or difficulty.  Among children in custody, 23% have very low IQs of below 70, and a further 36% have an IQ between 70 and 80

Sources: Prison: the facts - Bromley Briefings summer 2016 (Prison Reform Trust, 2016); Balancing Act (Revolving Doors Agency, 2013)

Addressing health inequalities is a key priority for the NHS, Public Health England and the Department of Health. Focussing attention on meeting the needs of this group is an essential part of achieving these aims.

Health and offending may also be inter-related.  Health issues such as substance misuse or mental health problems can lead to contact with the Criminal Justice System.  Addressing the health needs of this group can reduce re-offending, and have a positive impact on the health of their communities.