Understanding the relationship between mental illness and offending: Implications for crime prevention and the management of mentally ill offenders

We know that mental illness is a significant risk factor for criminal justice system involvement, but the mechanisms that explain this link are poorly understood. The rate at which individuals with mental health deficits come into contact with police, the courts and correctional institutions continues to rise and the criminal justice system struggles to cope with the associated challenges this population introduces. Using a life-course criminological perspective, this project aims to understand the links between mental illness and offending. This has applications to both intervention and prevention. Understanding the mechanisms that drive offending and system contact among those with mental health deficits can aid in the development of appropriate management and treatment protocols within the criminal justice system. It can also inform primary and secondary intervention strategies to reduce the likelihood of offending and system contact among the mentally ill, improving their well-being and increasing community safety.

Project Leaders

Anna Stewart

Project Team

Anna Stewart, Troy Allard, Susan Dennison, Steve Kisely, Carleen Thompson and Lisa Broidy

PhD Candidates

Charlotte Beaumont-Field and Jerneja Sveticic

Industry Partners

Queensland Office of the Government Statistician, Department of Premier and Cabinet, Queensland Police Service, Department of Justice and Attorney General, Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services and Queensland Health.

Project Value


Type of Funding

ARC Linkage - Projects


2011-09-30 to 2016-12-31


Developmental and life course criminology and prevention science


This project adopts the life course criminological framework to investigate links between mental illness and offending. The project will:

  • Investigate the nature of the dynamic relationships between mental illness and offending
  • Identify appropriate intervention strategies to manage and treat mentally ill offenders
  • Identify prevention strategies to reduce the onset of offending among those with mental illness