Treatment, deterrence or labelling: mentally disordered offenders' perspectives on social control

Jeremy Dixon

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Mentally disordered offenders are a group of service users who experience substantial amounts of control and supervision. This article uses theories of social control to analyse the way in which mechanisms of control are understood by this group. Semi‐structured interviews with mentally disordered offenders in England who were subject to a restriction order under the Mental Health Act 1983 (as amended by the Mental Health Act 2007) provided the empirical basis for this study. The offenders had a number of perspectives on the restriction order. Firstly, it was seen as a mechanism for identifying those suffering from a mental disorder and for providing appropriate treatment. Secondly, the restriction order was viewed as a form of disciplinary control through which societal norms might be internalised. Thirdly, it was seen as labelling offenders in a manner that was experienced as limiting and oppressive. A number of research participants were aware that the order acted to limit staff actions. These participants saw the order as a means by which they might shape the support that they received in order to further their own aims.A video abstract of this article can be found at:
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1299 - 1313
Number of pages15
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number8
Early online date3 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2015


  • mentally disordered offenders
  • Social Control
  • labelling
  • governmentality
  • risk


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