Intellectual disability and mental illness in the NSW criminal justice system

Vivienne Catherine Riches, Trevor Reginald Parmenter, Michele Wiese, Roger James Stancliffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


There has been increasing international, national and local recognition of the need for more appropriate responses and services for individuals who come in contact with the criminal justice system and who have an intellectual disability and mental health issues. This article provides an overview of prevalence data that indicates a significant over representation of people with intellectual disabilities in correctional facilities and reviews the problems facing this population. Findings from two specific evaluation studies undertaken by the Centre for Developmental Disability Studies are presented, along with recommendations for future provision based on these results. One of these projects trialled a case management approach to supporting offenders with an intellectual disability upon their release from prison. The 20-month follow-up found that a number of serious barriers were encountered within the overall system of provision for this population; the most serious of which related to lack of adequate accommodation upon release. The second project involved a two-stage evaluation of one model of provision for individuals with intellectual disabilities who are sex offenders, only some of whom were on parole. This service provided both residential and therapy services in a small group home located in the community. Residents were found to have high levels of emotional and behavioural difficulties, in addition to offending behaviour, that continue to require support and supervision. Critical issues, including guardianship involvement, restrictive practices and retrieval, therapy provision, and risk management issues are discussed in relation to overall clinical and lifestyle outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)386-396
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Law and Psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2006
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The two evaluations discussed in this paper were funded by the NSW Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care and the NSW Department of Corrective Services. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the NSW Government, or the Ministers for Ageing, Disability and Home Care or Corrective Services. Likewise, the conclusions drawn do not necessarily represent the policy of these Departments and endorsement by these Departments should not be assumed.


  • Criminal justice
  • Intellectual disability
  • Mental health


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