The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Persons with Mental Illnesses in the Criminal Justice System: Factors Influencing Outcomes

Friday, January 18, 2013: 10:00 AM-11:45 AM
Executive Center 2A (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
Cluster: Crime and Criminal Justice
Symposium Organizer:
Kelli Canada, PhD, LCSW, University of Missouri-Columbia
This symposium presents research on individuals with mental illnesses (MI) and the role multi-systemic factors play in their experiences with the criminal justice system.  Approximately one million people with MI each year are involved in the criminal justice system. Individuals with MI who come into contact with the law are at risk of negative impacts at multiple points in their interactions with the justice system. This includes interactions with the police, arrest, booking, trial, incarceration, and release from jail or prison. One well-documented risk for people with MI is criminal recidivism including re-offending and probation violations that lead to re-incarceration.

Understanding the factors that contribute to outcomes like criminal recidivism is an important step in reducing risk and developing specialized interventions to minimize contact with the justice system for people with MI. A large body of work has been devoted to understanding  predictors of criminal justice involvement. It is argued that criminal history, antisocial personality disorder, substance use, and family dysfunction are the most predictive variables for future criminal involvement among people with MI.

More recent research calls into question the impact of more nuanced factors involved in outcomes among people with MI. Little research has examined factors at multiple levels that may be influencing the experiences of people with MI who are on probation, incarcerated, or being released from custody. The effect of factors like interpersonal relationships with providers and family members, environmental supports and stressors, and policy are often speculated in the literature to be of importance but scant empirical studies examine these claims.

The set of papers in the proposed symposium addresses this gap with a focus on research that examines a variety of nuanced factors thought to affect client outcomes using different methods of inquiry and with participants who are involved at varying intercept points along the criminal justice spectrum.  The first paper presents research on the influence of relationships with caseworkers on court participation and mental health service utilization among adults who are involved in Mental Health Courts.  The second paper explores the factors thought to influence criminal justice involvement and the strategies employed to prevent recidivism from the perspective of specialized and traditional probation officers using a comparative qualitative analysis. The third paper focuses on perceptions of social support among females who are incarcerated and the factors predicting post-release support. The final paper examines the role of the risk environment on the reentry process among males involved in a Critical Time Intervention program using a constructivist grounded theory approach to analysis.

The papers in this symposium employ a mix of methodologies, utilize perspectives from people in the justice system and front line workers, and investigate both traditional approaches and specialized programs to mange criminal involvement, and they are united by a single aim: explicating salient factors that influence the outcomes of people with MI involved in the justice system.  The findings from this symposium will build the knowledge base and inform critical interventions to break the cycle of criminal involvement among people with MI.

* noted as presenting author
Supervising Probationers with Serious Mental Illnesses: Perspectives From Probation Officers in Specialized and Standard Probation Models
Matthew Epperson, PhD, University of Chicago; Kelli Canada, PhD, LCSW, University of Missouri-Columbia; Arthur J. Lurigio, PhD, Loyola University, Chicago
Women Prisoners with Mental Illnesses Experiences of Social Support
Carrie Pettus-Davis, PhD, Washington University in Saint Louis; Stephen J. Tripodi, PhD, Florida State University
The Impact of the Risk Environment On the Reentry Process for Persons with Serious Mental Illnesses Leaving Prison
Stacey Barrenger, University of Pennsylvania; Jeff Draine, PhD, Temple University; Beth Angell, PhD, Rutgers University
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