Mental health of people detained within the justice system in Africa: Systematic review and meta-analysis

Aish Lovett, Hye Rim Kwon, Khameer Kidia*, Debra Machando, Megan Crooks, Gregory Fricchione, Graham Thornicroft, Helen E. Jack

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Worldwide, people with mental disorders are detained within the justice system at higher rates than the general population and often suffer human rights abuses. This review sought to understand the state of knowledge on the mental health of people detained in the justice system in Africa, including epidemiology, conditions of detention, and interventions. We included all primary research studies examining mental disorders or mental health policy related to detention within the justice system in Africa. 80 met inclusion criteria. 67% were prevalence studies and meta-analysis of these studies revealed pooled prevalence as follows: substance use 38% (95% CI 26-50%), mood disorders 22% (95% CI 16-28%), and psychotic disorders 33% (95% CI 28-37%). There were only three studies of interventions. Studies examined prisons (46%), forensic hospital settings (37%), youth institutions (13%), or the health system (4%). In 36% of studies, the majority of participants had not been convicted of a crime. Given the high heterogeneity in subpopulations identified in this review, future research should examine context and population-specific interventions for people with mental disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number31
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health Systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2019


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