Offenders have some of the worst health outcomes of anyone in the community, with higher levels of infectious disease, sexually transmitted infections, mental health problems and cardiovascular disease. Many of the causes of their offending can be related to these health issues, and by treating issues like mental illness and impulsivity, we can reduce the rate of reoffending.
UNSW runs Australia’s largest justice health research program through the NHMRC Australian Centre of Research Excellence in Offender Health, based at the Kirby Institute. Its research is at the nexus of public health and criminal justice, and looks at the interaction between the two.
We have been highly successful in treating impulsive, violent men with antidepressant medication, which addresses the serotonin depletion often responsible for their impulsivity. With the support of the criminal justice system, we are trialling whether this approach may reduce rates of reoffending in in Sydney and the Central Coast.