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Under the radar: women with borderline personality disorder in prison

Download Under the radar: women with borderline personality disorder in prison

Report - see abstract

Author(s): Fossey, Matt; Black, Georgia

Publisher: Centre for Mental Health

Published: September 2010

Subjects: Adult Offenders; Adults with Mental Health Problems

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It is estimated that around a fifth of women in custody fulfil criteria for borderline personality disorder. This makes it a significant issue for the prison health service and an expensive drain on limited prison management resources. Despite the principle of ‘equivalence of care’ in prison health care, guidelines for the management of borderline personality disorder (BPD) are rarely observed in prisons.

In addition to health care deficits, the prison environment can be traumatic for women with BPD due to the hostile,punitive environment and the experience of incarceration. Family environments are significantly disrupted for all women on custodial sentences, with children frequently relocated and one in ten sent into social care.

Women with BPD often have unstable family environments prior to being taken into custody, compounding the effect of this disruption. Looking ahead to future generations, this upset to family life may contribute to the effects of ‘transgenerational transmission’ of criminal behaviour and mental health problems.

We recommend: 1) increased screening and appropriate diversion should be implemented to avoid custodial sentences where possible for women with BPD; 2) prison staff could benefit from increased training to raise awareness and improve the quality of care in prison; 3) where custodial sentences are necessary, evidence-based therapeutic interventions should be available to support women with BPD in prison; 4) where appropriate, evidence-based family interventions should be made available.

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