Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Improving Outcomes for People with Mental Illness Under Community Corrections Supervision

From the Council of State Government's Justice Center: Improving Outcomes for People with Mental Illness under Community Corrections Supervision: A Guide to Research Informed Policy and Practice.

The Council of State Governments Justice Center announced today the release of Improving Outcomes for People with Mental Illnesses under Community Corrections Supervision: A Guide to Research-Informed Policy and Practice, which was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the National Institute of Corrections, U.S. Department of Justice. The Guide reviews the body of recent research on community corrections supervision for people with mental illnesses and translates the findings to help officials develop effective interventions.
The number of people under community corrections supervision is at an all-time high nationwide-a March 2009 report from the Pew Charitable Trusts' Public Safety Performance Project confirms that more than 1 in 45 adults are on probation or parole. Based on other recent prevalence studies, the Guide indicates that an unprecedented number of these individuals have serious mental illnesses. These individuals are more likely than others to have their community sentences revoked, return to jail or prison, and become more deeply involved in the criminal justice system. This first-of-its-kind guide helps program planners and policymakers apply research on promising practices to improve outcomes for people with mental illnesses under community corrections supervision.

"More than 1.5 million people released from jail each year have serious mental illnesses and many will require special supervision strategies and treatments to safely and successfully rejoin their communities," said Nevada Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, the specialty courts coordinator of the state's Second Judicial District and Justice Center board member. "State lawmakers in Nevada, as is the case everywhere, are concerned about the costs and public safety issues associated with high probation and parole revocation rates among people with mental illnesses. In particular, we need to improve how this population is supervised, and this report highlights the research we should use to inform state policy and funding decisions."

The Guide indicates that community corrections and mental health officials are increasingly aware that they are serving the same individuals without positive effect. It explores the extent to which people with mental illnesses become involved in the community corrections system, and why traditional supervision and treatment strategies are not generally effective for this population. It also summarizes evidence-based and promising programs, strategies, and techniques to improve results for the justice system and people with mental illnesses. The Guide discusses how the current body of knowledge can help shape agency operations, program design and implementation. Research questions that should be investigated further to expand the evidence base are also identified.

"Community corrections agencies and mental health treatment providers are trying to figure out the best ways to coordinate or integrate their efforts to better serve people with mental illnesses and tailor new programs in ways that reduce recidivism and encourage recovery," said Morris Thigpen, Director of the National Institute of Corrections. "The Guide is an exciting new resource for two systems that are coming together around commonly defined goals to tackle these challenges."

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