This guideline covers assessing, diagnosing and managing mental health problems in adults (aged 18 and over) who are in contact with the criminal justice system. It aims to improve mental health and wellbeing in this population by establishing principles for assessment and management, and promoting more coordinated care planning and service organisation across the criminal justice system.

Also see NICE’s guideline on physical health of people in prison, which covers mental health assessment for the prison population as part of the first-stage health assessment for people going into prison, and continuity of mental health care for people leaving prison.


This guideline includes recommendations on:

Who is it for?

  • Commissioners and providers of health and justice services
  • All health and social care professionals working with adults in contact with the criminal justice system in community, primary care, secondary care and secure settings
  • Adults in contact with the criminal justice system who have or may have mental health problems

Guideline development process

How we develop NICE guidelines

Next review: March 2019

Your responsibility

The recommendations in this guideline represent the view of NICE, arrived at after careful consideration of the evidence available. When exercising their judgement, professionals are expected to take this guideline fully into account, alongside the individual needs, preferences and values of their patients or service users. The application of the recommendations in this guideline is not mandatory and the guideline does not override the responsibility of healthcare professionals to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of the individual patient, in consultation with the patient and/or their carer or guardian.

Local commissioners and/or providers have a responsibility to enable the guideline to be applied when individual health professionals and their patients or service users wish to use it. They should do so in the context of local and national priorities for funding and developing services, and in light of their duties to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, to advance equality of opportunity and to reduce health inequalities. Nothing in this guideline should be interpreted in a way that would be inconsistent with compliance with those duties.

Commissioners and providers have a responsibility to promote an environmentally sustainable health and care system and should assess and reduce the environmental impact of implementing NICE recommendations wherever possible.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)