Personality disorder is a significant issue for prisoners, with studies estimating that it affects between 60 and 70% of people in prison.
Parole Board members came together to learn more about offenders with personality disorders at training sessions in London and Manchester on 11 and 12 May.
The training sessions were facilitated by the Joint Leads for the Offender Personality Disorder Programme run by the National Offender Management Service and NHS England, Ian Goode and Sarah Skett, along with Jackie Craissati, Consultant to the Programme and a current member of the Parole Board’s Review Committee.
The aims of the training day were for Parole Board Members to:
- understand what constitutes a Personality Disorder
- understand how a Personality Disorder develops
- be more familiar with treatment pathways and community management
- have considered how risk relates to personality disorder using case studies
- understand what they need to know to make good risk assessments
Members explored the core features of personality disorder as a ‘bio-psycho-social’ disorder, and different approaches to characterising the disorder. Members learned about the limitations of formal diagnosis and that psychologists are moving away from rigid categorisation towards a more holistic approach, but that diagnosis may be needed to access some treatments.
The sessions also explored the services available to manage offenders with personality disorders, potential outcomes of programmes, the entry criteria for services and different treatment pathways.
Members were particularly interested in understanding the clinical link between personality disorder and risk of reoffending. Those with personality disorder may experience issues such as impulsivity, difficulty controlling their behaviour, hostility towards others, intense emotional outbursts, stormy relationships and consistent problems with employment.
The evidence base for interventions addressing personality disorder was also discussed, along with the various types of therapies which are successful for some of the personality disorder population. Members increased their knowledge of how personality disorder-focused offence related therapy works to control emotional arousal and increase a person’s capacity to think and make effective decisions.
Lecture-style presentation was interspersed with three interactive workshops, using three contrasting case studies to generate discussion about why the offence occurred, how re-offending might happen, and whether to re-release or recommend further intervention.
Parole Board members who attended said that they found the event highly informative and very useful for their work. The greater understanding of the nature of personality disorder, treatment pathways, and relevance to risk will help to improve the quality of the Parole Board’s risk assessment and decision-making. This in turn will contribute to better outcomes for offenders and increase the safety of the public.