Recommendations for research

The guideline committee has made the following recommendations for research. The committee's full set of research recommendations is detailed in the full guideline.

1 Psychological and pharmacological interventions for people with paraphilic disorders

What is the clinical effectiveness, cost effectiveness and safety of specific psychological and pharmacological interventions both in and out of prison among people with paraphilic disorders?

Why this is important

The limited evidence for pharmacological interventions (for example, medroxyprogesterone acetate) provides no clear evidence of benefit in people with paraphilias. A randomised trial with an adequate sample size is needed to examine the effectiveness of medroxyprogesterone acetate in these populations.

There is also insufficient evidence on the effectiveness of psychological interventions for people with paraphilias in the criminal justice system. An individual patient data analysis of existing large scale data sets of paedophiles who have been treated in the criminal justice system should be conducted to inform the choice of treatment and the design of any future research. Psychological interventions for paraphilias (such as sex offender treatment programme) should be tested in large randomised controlled trials in criminal justice populations. This research could have a significant impact upon updates of this guideline.

Important outcomes could include:

  • offending and re-offending rates

  • mental health problems

  • cost effectiveness

  • service utilisation.

When designing the trials, consideration should be given to the timing, intensity and duration of interventions in the context of the criminal justice system.

2 Structured clinical management interventions in probation service providers

What is the effectiveness of structured clinical (case) management in improving mental health outcomes using interventions within probation service providers?

Why this is important

Many people in contact with the community-based criminal justice services have significant mental health problems, in particular, personality problems and interpersonal difficulties. Evidence from studies of people with such problems in general mental health services suggests that structured organisation and delivery of mental health interventions (structured clinical management) may be of benefit in improving mental health outcomes. A programme of research is needed which would first refine and develop structured clinical management for use in the community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) and the National Probation Service (NPS) and then test this in large scale randomised control trials in both CRCs and the NPS. The comparison should be against standard CRC and NPS care. The trial should consider both clinical outcomes and cost effectiveness.

Important outcomes could include:

  • mental health outcomes

  • offending and re-offending rates

  • service utilisation

  • cost effectiveness

  • broader measures of social functioning.

3 Interventions for coordination and delivery of care to improve access and uptake

What models for the coordination and delivery of care for people in contact with the criminal justice system provide for the most effective and efficient coordination of care and improve access and uptake of services?

Why this is important

There is low quality evidence for a range of systems for the delivery and coordination of care in the criminal justice system (for example, drug or mental health courts, and case management). However, there is clear evidence of poor engagement, uptake and retention in treatment for people with mental health problems in contact with the criminal justice system. A number of models (for example, case management and collaborative care) have shown benefit for people with common and severe mental health problems in routine healthcare settings. A programme of research and development is needed, which will first develop and test different models of care coordination for the delivery of care in small feasibility studies, and then test models that have shown promise in the feasibility studies in large scale randomised clinical trials in the criminal justice system.

Important outcomes could include:

  • improved mental health outcomes

  • improved access and uptake of services

  • reductions in offending and re-offending

  • cost effectiveness.

4 Tools for case identification for cognitive impairment in criminal justice system populations

What are the reliable and valid tools to identify cognitive impairment among people in contact with the criminal justice system (including people who have experienced physical trauma, neurodevelopmental disorders or other acquired cognitive impairment)?

Why this is important

Acquired cognitive impairment is common in criminal justice system populations and may be associated with poor social, occupational an interpersonal functioning. Also, people with acquired cognitive impairment have high risk of self-harm which is particularly prevalent in the prison population. Acquired cognitive impairment may arise as a result of, for example, traumatic brain injury, a stroke or other neurological conditions. Experts in this area have suggested that early identification of deficits, and implementation of effective management strategies, could be important in limiting the long-term impact of acquired cognitive impairment. However, there is a lack of evidence on reliable and valid case identification tools and methods. It is important that research is developed to assist staff in the criminal justice pathway to help identify people with acquired cognitive impairment and support better understanding and management of acquired cognitive impairment.

5 Prevalence of mental health problems

What is the prevalence of mental health problems and associated social problems for those in contact with the criminal justice system?

Why this is important

It is widely recognised that the people in contact with the criminal justice system have a high prevalence of a whole range of mental health problems and associated problems including unstable housing, long-standing unemployment, a lack of supportive social networks and debt. What is not clear, however, is how the mental and social functioning of this group of people has changed since the last major epidemiological study in the late 1990s. In order to plan for the effective mental healthcare of people in the criminal justice system, it is important to have a greater understanding of the prevalence of mental health problems and social functioning of this group of people. There are a number of factors which have changed since the last epidemiological study; these include a larger prison population, changing patterns of substance misuse, an aging prison population, changes in probation practice and sentencing policy as well as broader changes in society such as changes in mental healthcare and social care practice. A series of epidemiological studies of representative criminal justice system populations should be undertaken to address the above problems.

6 Identification of factors associated with suicide

What factors are associated with suicide attempts and completed suicides?

Why this is important

There is high prevalence of suicide attempts among people in contact with the criminal justice system. When developing interventions to prevent self-harm among these populations, it is important to identify and understand the factors related to successful suicide. A retrospective analysis of observational studies of suicidal attempts and completed suicides using suicide as a definitive and measurable outcome should be performed to identify the prognostic factors for successful prevention.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)