Identification and treatment of offenders with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in the prison population: A practical approach based upon expert consensus

Susan Young*, Gisli Gudjonsson, Prathiba Chitsabesan, Bill Colley, Emad Farrag, Andrew Forrester, Jack Hollingdale, Keira Kim, Alexandra Lewis, Sarah Maginn, Peter Mason, Sarah Ryan, Jade Smith, Emma Woodhouse, Philip Asherson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Around 25% of prisoners meet diagnostic criteria for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Because ADHD is associated with increased recidivism and other functional and behavioural problems, appropriate diagnosis and treatment can be a critical intervention to improve outcomes. While ADHD is a treatable condition, best managed by a combination of medication and psychological treatments, among individuals in the criminal justice system ADHD remains both mis- and under-diagnosed and consequently inadequately treated. We aimed to identify barriers within the prison system that prevent appropriate intervention, and provide a practical approach to identify and treat incarcerated offenders with ADHD. Methods: The United Kingdom ADHD Partnership hosted a consensus meeting to discuss practical interventions for youth (<18years) and adult (≥18years) offenders with ADHD. Experts at the meeting addressed prisoners' needs for effective identification, treatment, and multiagency liaison, and considered the requirement of different approaches based on age or gender. Results: The authors developed a consensus statement that offers practical advice to anyone working with prison populations. We identified specific barriers within the prison and criminal justice system such as the lack of adequate: staff and offender awareness of ADHD symptoms and treatments; trained mental health staff; use of appropriate screening and diagnostic tools; appropriate multimodal interventions; care management; supportive services; multiagency liaison; and preparation for prison release. Through discussion, a consensus was reached regarding prisoners' needs, effective identification, treatment and multiagency liaison and considered how this may differ for age and gender. Conclusions: This practical approach based upon expert consensus will inform effective identification and treatment of offenders with ADHD. Appropriate intervention is expected to have a positive impact on the offender and society and lead to increased productivity, decreased resource utilization, and most importantly reduced rates of re-offending. Research is still needed, however, to identify optimal clinical operating models and to monitor their implementation and measure their success. Furthermore, government support will likely be required to effect change in criminal justice and mental health service policies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number281
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sept 2018


  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Consensus
  • Identification
  • Interventions
  • Prison population
  • Treatment
  • UKAP


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