Psychiatric characteristics of female prisoners in Tasmania
Jones, IH and Marris, B and Hornsby, H, Psychiatric characteristics of female prisoners in Tasmania, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 29, (4) pp. 671-677. ISSN 0004-8674 (1995) [Refereed Article]
Objective: The aim of the paper is to describe some of the psychiatric, social and criminological features of female prisoners in Tasmania between 1981 and 1990 inclusive. Method: Data were collated from prison records for all 210 women prisoners incarcerated between the above dates. Using the Mental Health Services database it was determined which prisoners had prior contact with State Psychiatric Services, their clinical state, various demographic data and ICD-9 diagnoses. Forensic data obtained from prison records were compared for those with and those without a psychiatric history of attendance at Mental Health Services; appropriate privacy safeguards were used in handling the material. Results: Thirty-five per cent of prisoners had prior contact with the Mental Health Services before imprisonment. They were predominantly persons with an abnormal personality. Non-addictive drug abuse was the next most common psychiatric category (19%). Only 3% suffered from schizophrenia or affective disorder. Those with prior psychiatric presentation had greater social maladjustment, longer sentences for similar offences and a higher recidivism rate. There was an increase in the number of prisoners with and without a psychiatric diagnosis during the decade. Conclusions: Thirty-five per cent of the female prison population had previously attended psychiatric services in the State. This is fewer than reported in Britain and the US, probably because of the different social structure of this community. These persons differ from other prisoners by showing greater impairment in social adjustments and relationships. They appear to be treated differently with respect to sentencing. There was no evidence of a simple reciprocal relationship between deinstitutionalisation and imprisonment.