Less Recidivism Found in Offenders Processed Through Mental Health Court

From Psychiatric News Alert: Offenders who participated in a mental health court program recorded significantly better recidivism outcomes compared to matched control defendants in the traditional criminal court system, according to Joye Anestis, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, and co-author Joyce Carbonell, Ph.D., director of women’s studies at Florida State University in Tallahasee.

The study published online in Psychiatric Services in Advance compared two groups of 198 criminal offenders with mental illnesses. Overall, the mental health group had a lower occurrence of rearrest, a longer time to reoffending, and had fewer rearrests. Severity of the rearrest offense did not differ between the two groups, however.

A within-subject analysis of mental health court offenders found that those charged with misdemeanors had a higher occurrence of rearrest than those charged with felonies, but the two groups did not differ on odds of arrest or time to rearrest. Also, violent and nonviolent offenders showed no difference in recidivism outcomes, said Anestis and Carbonell.

The results may suggest that keeping mentally ill offenders out of jail and in community treatment may have positive effects on recidivism, as may the increased attention and supervision they receive, said the authors.

“Future research would benefit from a focus on the mechanisms of change in [mental health courts] and on identifying characteristics of individuals who respond best to participation in [them],” they concluded.

For more in Psychiatric News about mental health diversion options, see: “Judges, Psychiatrists Confer on Handling Mental Illness inJustice System.”

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