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Probation, Mental Health and Criminal Justice: Towards Equivalence
A new book about effective mental health interventions in probation.

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Probation and mental health

This is a guest blog by Coral Sirdifield on a new book on probation and mental health edited by herself and Professor Charlie Brooker.

The last few years have drawn attention to mental health in society, the relationship between deprivation and health inequalities, and the need to improve mental health provision, particularly for socially excluded groups. Professor Charlie Brooker (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Dr Coral Sirdifield (University of Lincoln) present an edited collection of international research on mental health and probation. In this book they bring together a range of perspectives in this field including those of academics, people with lived experience of probation and those working in criminal justice settings.

The collection begins by examining what we know from research studies and evaluations about effective mental health interventions in probation. Brooker and Sirdifield present findings from systematic reviews on mental health, suicide and substance misuse in probation. Whilst the reviews highlight a lack of conclusive evidence around effective interventions, they also draw attention to some potentially promising approaches that may be worthy of further research.

Part two of the collection provides an introduction to what we know about the prevalence of mental health problems amongst people on probation, with chapters that should be of interest to commissioners and policy makers. Studies are presented from one English region (Brooker and Sirdifield) and Ireland (Power and McNally). Together they evidence the complexity of need in the probation population and the need for services to be configured to meet such needs.

Part three shares findings from recent joint Inspectorate thematic reviews of individuals with mental health needs and disorders in the criminal justice system (Buckley, Singh and Moore), and substance misuse services and probation (Ball and Parker). These valuable studies demonstrate the shortage of appropriate mental health service provision and provide helpful recommendations for practical steps that can be taken by those in a range of professional roles to improve identification of and care for people on probation with mental health and/or substance misuse needs.

Part four focuses on psychological treatment. Written by professionals working in the field, the chapters in this section discuss an approach to psychological treatment and screening adopted in a Community Rehabilitation Company working in London (Fowler), new directions for suicide prevention in Approved Premises (Slade), and autism and offending behaviour (Bates). These chapters provide a contemporary view of probation practice and demonstrate some of the challenges involved in trying to engage people on probation with mental health support. The authors provide helpful practical suggestions for working with people with different types of needs.

Parts five and six consider probation and Covid-19 (Devitt, Coley, Lawrence and Musimbe-Rix) and methodological approaches including a lived experience perspective on enhancing the work of probation through co-production (Emma, Jason and Mullen), and researching the probation service response to mental health need (Denney and Sirdifield). These chapters should be helpful to anyone wishing to conduct research in this area and to those considering the benefits of co-production in probation through the introduction of things like peer mentor roles.

Finally, the concluding chapter synthesises the learning from the collection into a set of principles for ensuring positive mental health outcomes for people on probation.

 

You can pre-order the book here.

You can register (for free) for the event accompanying the book launch here.

 

Thanks to Nathan McDine  for kind permission to use the header image in this post which was previously published on Unsplash.

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Professor Brooker concludes with a plea that both the National Probation Service and the new private Community Rehabilitation Companies should be equipping their staff with training to at least recognise mental health disorders and to take some action in attempting to connect probationers to existing services.

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With over 20 years’ experience in the criminal justice sector, Unilink is a world leader in probation and community corrections software applications, as well as prisoner self-service, prisoner/case management and prisoner communications. Unilink’s integrated suite of products provide a complete digital solution enabling efficient running of prisons and probation. Underpinned by biometrics it integrates seamlessly to deliver security, efficiency and value – while being proven to help rehabilitate prisoners.

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