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Mental health test developed by prison

THE Shanghai Juvenile Criminal Prison, assisted by psychologists from East China Normal University, has created a standardized psychological evaluation for minor criminals aged 15 to 17 years old, officials said yesterday.

The test is based on the performance of 3,058 juvenile criminals who were locked up in the prison during the past decade.

"The standards are reliable due to the large number of subjects from different areas in the country (that have been tested) and can be used to appraise the mental health conditions of minor criminals scientifically," said Gu Haigen, director of the city's psychological testing committee.

Minor criminals have to complete a psychological questionnaire with 187 simple questions soon after they enter the prison. The questionnaire is based upon the Catell 16 Personality Factor Test, a popular American mental health test.

The prisoner will then be scored on 16 personality traits. If the scores are out of the standard range, this indicates a mental health problem, said Hu Jingya, director of the prison's mental health center.

"This can help us find minor criminals with serious mental health problems and take action in time to prevent them from making mistakes and help educate them," Hu said.

Since the test was adopted, about 20 percent of minor criminals were found to have serious mental health problems, she said.

In the past, the only standardized psychological testing available was for middle-school students and adults. Using such tests, more than 80 percent of minor criminals were found to have mental health problems.

"It was meaningless for us because we couldn't find those with serious mental health problems," Hu said.


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