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The criminal justice system, which includes restorative justice, is the collective body promoting rule of law and justice, involving institutions such as police, courts, prisons and the Crown Prosecution Service (1).


Criminal Justice System Risk

Risk Factor

The criminal justice system is a risk factor for mental health difficulties. For people in a mental health crisis, police are often the first responders. This may lead to people with mental health difficulties being involuntarily detained in hospital (2). These compulsory admissions have been associated with feelings of fear and loss of control (3). As the likelihood of being detained is higher for ethnic minority populations (4), this adds to health disparities.


People in prisons face a higher risk of experiencing mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis, potentially due to exposure to violence and enforced solitude (5,6). Furthermore, prisoners can have barriers to accessing care (7); leading to worse mental health outcomes.


The stress of transitioning from prison to the community can be a risk factor for mental health difficulties as recent release from prison has been associated with higher suicide rates (8).



1.        The Crown Prosecution Service. The Criminal Justice System [Internet]. Available from:

2.        Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services. Policing and Mental Health: Picking Up the Pieces [Internet]. 2018 Nov [cited 2021 Feb 25]. Available from:

3.        Rethink Mental Illness, Adelphi Research UK. No Voice, No Choice: Making the Mental Health Act more person centred [Internet]. 2018 Apr [cited 2021 Feb 25]. Available from:

4.        Gajwani R, Parsons H, Birchwood M, Singh SP. Ethnicity and detention: are Black and minority ethnic (BME) groups disproportionately detained under the Mental Health Act 2007? Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol [Internet]. 2016 May 1 [cited 2021 Jan 21];51(5):703–11. Available from:

5.        Burki T. Crisis in UK prison mental health. The Lancet Psychiatry. 2017 Dec 1;4(12):904.

6.        World Health Organization, International Committee of the Red Cross. Information Sheet Mental Health and Prisons. Geneva;

7.        National Audit Office. Mental health in prisons [Internet]. 2017 Jun [cited 2021 Feb 10]. Available from:

8.        Keyes KM, Pratt C, Galea S, McLaughlin KA, Koenen KC, Shear MK. The burden of loss: Unexpected death of a loved one and psychiatric disorders across the life course in a national study. Am J Psychiatry [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2021 Feb 1];171(8):864–71. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC4119479/?report=abstract


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