In August 2012 a brief electronic survey was sent out to CEP members on behalf of Professor Charlie Brooker. This deliberately brief and broad survey aimed to give some insight into the extent to which mental health in probation is acknowledged in both policy and practical terms across different European countries.
More specifically, representatives from each country were asked to provide information on:
- the policy background for mental illness and probation
- what is known about the prevalence of current mental illness amongst offenders on probation
- the extent and nature of mental health awareness training
- processes for identifying mental illness amongst offenders on probation and referring them into appropriate services (including how mental health service provision for offenders is financed)
- the role of probation in the provision of mental health care to offenders
Please download a more elaborate overview of the survey’s findings in a summary written by Professor Brooker. The findings may ultimately be used to inform a bid for research funding on this topic. If you have an interest in this topic Professor Brooker can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Overview of responses
Representatives from a total of eight countries (Slovakia, Northern Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Lithuania, Austria, Jersey and Romania) responded to the survey. The overall response rate was low at 22% (8/36). Responses showed that the total number of people being supervised by the probation services in these countries at any one time ranged from 72 in Slovakia to 14,889 in Romania. When asked to describe the main aims of the probation service in their country, seven of the eight respondents mentioned reducing re-offending and six mentioned the rehabilitation of offenders.
Conclusion to survey’s findings
It is hard to generalise about the care and treatment of people with mental health disorders in probation services across Europe as the response rate to the survey was low. It is interesting that that half the responses that were obtained came from smaller countries such as Jersey and Northern Ireland. The prevalence of mental health disorders in the responding countries varied on how disorders were defined but two of the estimates, 60% (N Ireland) and 50% (Netherlands) corresponded with the small amount of international research on this topic (Lurigio et al, 2003; Brooker et al, 2012). Government policy on the care of mental health disorders in probation services was under-developed and few examples were cited. In all responding countries, mental health awareness training was a feature of probation services, but this rarely lasted more than two days and was ‘introductory’. A variety of routes were described whereby a probationer with a mental health disorder might be referred to a mental health specialist. However, it was acknowledged that for a probationer to be referred at all a mental health problem had to be detected in the first place. In three of the eight countries, mental health treatment under a court order, was a condition of probation supervision. Again, the disorder had to be recognised either at arrest or on remand for any such order to be mandated.
There is a high proportion of those suffering mental health disorders in probation services approximately half of all probationers. Many probationers suffer from a mental health problem that is not detected nor treated appropriately. Untreated mental health disorders contribute to re-offending and systems should operate whereby mental health disorders are recognised and then treated effectively. Those that responded to the survey have helpfully illuminated the situation in their respective countries. To obtain a fuller response to a survey of this kind in the future would require face-to-face interviews in order to obtain a fuller picture.