For enquiries about The POLICY RESEARCH BUREAU's past work,
Meeting the Mental Health Needs
of Young Offenders


While there is debate about the full extent of mental health needs of young offenders and the best ways of meeting those needs, there is little doubt that young people caught up in the criminal justice system do have elevated rates of mental health problems when compared to other adolescents. A conservative estimate would suggest that the rates of mental illness in these young people is three times as high as that for their peers. The Mental Health Foundation commissioned PRB to write a `think piece' pulling together the existing evidence on the extent and type of these problems, clarifying the issues and setting out the policy and practice recommendations that arise from the evidence-base.

What did the research focus on?

The first half of the report concentrated on what is already known about the evidence relating to the overlap between mental health problems and antisocial behaviour. The second half turned to address policy and practice related questions concerning how children with mental health needs can be identified; what types of services they are likely to receive under current arrangements; what the implications are if they do not get services; and a review of issues arising and proposals for service development.

What did the research involve?

The report was based on systematic searches of the literature for information regarding the mental health needs of young offenders. This included articles, books and reports concerned with forensic and adolescent psychiatry, criminology, mental health and social services. A number of databases were searched for relevant published and unpublished material including PsycLit, Medline and BIDS. In addition, several journals were searched by hand to locate relevant articles not identified in the searches, and to locate recently published work not yet indexed. The searches concentrated on studies from the US and UK, carried out in the last three decades.

Timescale and final product of the research

A report was submitted to the Mental Health Foundation in the Spring of 2002:

Hagell A (2002) The mental health of young offenders. Bright Futures: Working with vulnerable young people. London: Mental Health Foundation.

The report is available on the Mental Health Foundation's website at:

See Publications for further details.

Last updated July 2004