Psychiatric Hospital Bed Numbers and Prison Population Sizes in 26 European Countries: A Critical Reconsideration of the Penrose HypothesisReport as inadecuate




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Background

Recently, there has been a revived interest in the validity of the Penrose hypothesis, which was originally postulated over 75 years ago. It suggests an inverse relationship between the numbers of psychiatric hospital beds and the sizes of prison population. This study aims to investigate the association between psychiatric hospital beds and prison populations in a large sample of 26 European countries between 1993 and 2011.

Methods

The association between prison population sizes and numbers of psychiatric hospital beds was assessed by means of Spearman correlations and modeled by a mixed random coefficient regression model. Socioeconomic variables were considered as covariates. Data were retrieved from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

Outcomes

Mean Spearman correlation coefficients between psychiatric beds and prison population showed a significant negative association -0.35; p = <0.01. However, in the mixed regression model including socioeconomic covariates there were no significant fixed parameter estimates. Meanwhile, the covariance estimates for the random coefficients psychiatric beds σ2 = 0.75, p = <0.01 and year σ2 = 0.0007, p = 0.03 yielded significant results.

Interpretation

These findings do not support the general validity of the Penrose hypothesis. Notably, the results of the mixed-model show a significant variation in the magnitude and direction of the association of psychiatric hospital bed numbers and the prison population sizes between countries. In this sense, our results challenge the prevalent opinion that a reduction of psychiatric beds subsequently leads to increasing incarcerations. These findings also work against the potential stigmatization of individuals suffering from mental disorders as criminals, which could be an unintentional byproduct of the Penrose hypothesis.



Author: Victor Blüml, Thomas Waldhör, Nestor D. Kapusta, Benjamin Vyssoki

Source: http://plos.srce.hr/



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