Beyond Punishment Seminar Series: Mental health and criminality: Are prisons 'the new asylums'?

9 November 2017


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Mental health and criminality: Are prisons 'the new asylums'?

Much has been written about the prevalence of cognitive and mental health issues in prison populations. Have prisons become the 'The New Asylums' (FRONTLINE 2005) or are there more nuanced explanations for the perceived relationship between mental health, criminality and incarceration (NSWLRC 2012; Ben-Moshe 2017)? This seminar will examine possible concurrent factors that may lead people to come into contact with the criminal justice system: life skill deficits, substance abuse, domestic violence, housing insecurity and employment challenges. Do the cumulative impacts of disadvantage mean that the perceived prevalence of prisoners with mental health issues is over-stated? Should the focus shift, instead, to understanding and addressing the complex needs of people who offend? This provocative discussion will engage with incarceration, (de)institutionalization and medicalization.


This event will be chaired by Associate Professor Arlie Loughnan of the Sydney Law School. Her research interests are constructions of criminal responsibility and non-responsibility, the interaction of legal and expert medical knowledges and the historical development of the criminal law.


Dr Linda Steele is senior lecturer in law at University of Technology Sydney and visiting senior fellow at the University of Wollongong. Linda's research explores intersections of disability, law and injustice, particularly in the contexts of punishment, violence and institutionalisation. Since 2008 Linda has been a Board member of Women's Justice Network and from 2006 to 2009 worked as a solicitor at Intellectual Disability Rights Service.

Elizabeth McEntyre is an accredited Mental Health Social Worker, the Aboriginal Statewide Official Visitor for Northern NSW prisons and a Member of the NSW Mental Health Review Tribunal. Her PhD research 'Kidn But-ton Doon-ga: Black Women Know re-presents the lived realities of Australian Indigenous women with mental and cognitive disability in criminal justice systems.

Dr Olav Nielssen is a psychiatrist in private practice in Sydney, with appointments to St Vincents Hospital and as a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Macquarie University. He was a psychiatrist at Justice Health for fifteen years, and for the last eleven years has performed a weekly clinic at the Matthew Talbot Hostel. He was also a member of the Mental Health Review Tribunal between 2006 and 2016.

Kris Wilson is a clinical psychologist with Corrective Services NSW. He has worked in a medium secure forensic psychiatric service and has prepared reports for the courts on fitness and mental illness, as well as sentencing options, including the use of preventive detention. More recently he has delivered group treatment for violent offenders, and currently works in a specialist therapeutic unit within the women's prison system.

CPD Points: 1.5

This event is sponsored by Corrective Services NSW and hosted by the Sydney Institute of Criminology, University of Sydney Law School.


Time: 6-7.30pm (registration and refreshments from 5.30pm)

Location: Law Foyer, Level 2, New Law Building (F10), Eastern Avenue, Camperdown, University of Sydney

Cost: Complimentary, however registration is essential.

Contact: Professional Learning & Community Engagement

Phone: 02 9351 0429

Email: 0f032e46060f121e24273312202f18522e543d0d34650501