Recent public concern about prisoners with psychiatric disorder, the deliberations of the Department of Health and Home Office Review of Health and Social Services for Mentally Disordered Offenders (the Reed Review) and the allocation by HM Government of funds for magistrates' courts to pay for duty psychiatrist schemes like the experimental scheme at Clerkenwell Magistrates' Court (James & Hamilton, 1991) are raising the profile of the mentally disordered offender and focusing attention on a group of people not only handicapped by mental disorder but also caught up in the criminal process. Probation officers have a key role in the care of many mentally disordered offenders and in the recent Home Office circular (1990) Provision for Mentally Disordered Offenders a reference is made to two courses for probation officers run by the Regional Staff Development Organisation for the Northern Region of the Probation Service. These courses are ‘Working with High Risk Offenders’ and ‘Working with Psychiatric Problems in Probation’. The former is run by Professor Herschel Prins and the latter by me. Judged by the number of applications, these are the two most popular courses run by RSD, but, as part of the process of evolving training to local probation areas, RSD closed in November 1991 and it has now organised its last course ‘Working with Psychiatric Problems in Probation’. This therefore seems an opportune time to describe the aims, format and evolution of the course and promote discussion concerning its implications for psychiatrists.
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