Volume 46 Issue 2, January 2004, pp. 165-182

There is minimal research on the psychological effects of wrongful conviction and imprisonment. This is a descriptive study of a sample of 18 men referred for systematic psychiatric assessment after their convictions were quashed on appeal and they were released from long-term imprisonment. Sixteen were U.K. cases; two were from other jurisdictions. The assessments revealed evidence of substantial psychiatric morbidity. Fourteen men met ICD-10 diagnostic criteria for "enduring personality change following catastrophic experience" (F62.0), 12 met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, and most reported additional mood and anxiety disorders. There were major problems of psychological and social adjustment, particularly within families. The difficulties were similar to those described in the clinical literature on war veterans. Possible explanations for these effects are discussed: specific traumatic features of miscarriage of justice and long-term imprisonment both appear to contribute to the post-release psychological problems.