Rehabilitation for Mentally Ill Law Offenders in Prisons/Police Custody


Mentally ill law offenders could be offenders who committed criminal offences while they were mentally unstable, or offenders who developed a mental illness while serving their time. They include offenders who suffer from mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, major affective disorders, personality disorders (including psychopathy), brain damage, drug-induced psychosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, and mental retardation. An estimated 450 million people worldwide suffer from mental or behavioural disorders, WHO estimate that these disorders are especially prevalent in prison populations. This disproportionately high rate of mental disorders in prisons is related to several factors: the widespread misconception that all people with mental disorders are a danger to the public, the failure to promote mental health treatment, care and rehabilitation in the prison environment, and, above all, the lack of, or poor access to, mental health services especially in developing countries like Nigeria. Many of these disorders may be present before admission to prison, and may be further exacerbated by the stress of imprisonment. However, mental disorders may also develop during imprisonment itself as a consequence of prevailing conditions and also possibly due to torture or other human rights violations by.

After a mentally disordered offender has served time for crime committed, he/she gets back to the community where they pose risks as they are more likely to get involved in violent crimes if not given the appropriate care and treatment for the mental health condition. Even in countries with limited resources, steps can be taken to improve the mental health of prisoners and prison staff. These steps can be adapted to the cultural, social, political and economic context within that country.


Treatment and care for mentally disordered offenders should be inherent in the criminal justice system. They still go through the criminal justice process as anyone else would. However, the goal of this program is to partner with the police and criminal justice system to put strict measures in place to support law offenders with mental illness, giving them the required treatment for their condition. Addressing mental health needs will improve the health and quality of life of both the affected population and that of the prison population as a whole.

A look at mental health across Africa