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Psychiatr Serv. 2005 Feb;56(2):179-85.

Involvement with the criminal justice system among new clients at outpatient mental health agencies.

Author information

1
University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-3333, USA. mtheriot@utk.edu

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

This study assessed involvement with the criminal justice system among new clients of community mental health centers and self-help agencies in order to determine the characteristics and service needs of this population. Such information has implications for improving the care available for persons with mental illness who have been involved with the criminal justice system.

METHODS:

Interview assessments and criminal records were obtained for 673 new clients of 21 outpatient mental health agencies. Descriptive statistics, chi square tests, and multivariate analysis of variance were used to describe these new help-seekers and their involvement with the criminal justice system.

RESULTS:

A total of 303 study participants (45 percent) had at least one contact with the criminal justice system before arriving at the agency, with an approximately equal percentage at community mental health centers and self-help agencies. The mean+/-SD number of contacts with the criminal justice system was 7.81+/-9.12. A total of 240 individuals (36 percent) had at least one criminal conviction, including 128 (19 percent) with a felony conviction. Common charges and convictions included petty theft, assault and battery, felony theft, narcotics offenses, and misdemeanor drug offenses. Clients who had been involved with the criminal justice system were more likely to be homeless, to have drug dependence, to have greater psychological disability, and to have less personal empowerment than other clients.

CONCLUSIONS:

The population overlap between the mental health system and criminal justice system and the multiple problems facing criminally involved clients argues for greater collaboration between the two systems and a comprehensive package of services to meet the multiple needs of this population. The equal distribution of these individuals and similar offense patterns at both types of agencies necessitates further consideration of the role that nontraditional service providers have in serving individuals with a history of involvement with the criminal justice system.

PMID:
15703345
DOI:
10.1176/appi.ps.56.2.179
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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