Pharmacological Approaches to Managing Violence and Aggression in Prison Populations: Clinical and Ethical Issues

Michael Weightman, Ranjit Kini, Robert Parker, Mrigendra Das

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    Violence and aggression are common problems encountered in prison, which frequently require clinical intervention. This increased prevalence is partially attributable to the high morbidity of psychiatric and personality disorders in prison inmates. As prisons are non-therapeutic environments, the provision of clinical care becomes more complex. This article examines the general principles of management of violence and aggression in prison settings, with a particular focus on the clinical and ethical considerations that guide pharmacological approaches. Use of psychotropic medication to address these problems is reserved for situations where there is (i) a diagnosable psychiatric disorder, or (ii) a significant risk of harm to an individual without urgent intervention. Initial focus should be on environmental and behavioural de-escalation strategies. Clear assessment for the presence of major mental illness is crucial, with appropriate pharmacological interventions being targeted and time-limited. Optimising management of any underlying psychiatric conditions is an important preventative measure. In the acute setting, rapid tranquilisation should be performed according to local guidelines with a focus on oral prior to parenteral administration. Clinicians must be mindful of capacity and consent issues amongst prisoners to protect patient rights and guide setting of care.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1635-1647
    Number of pages13
    Issue number16
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


    • psychiatric interventions
    • non-healthcare settings
    • prisons
    • Psychotropics
    • aggression in prison
    • underlying psychiatric conditions
    • use of medication in prisoners


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