Each year, 2 million people with mental disorders are booked in jail, rather than provided the necessary medical help. Once in jail, many do not receive the necessary treatment, exacerbating their mental illnesses. Once released, lack of access to the much-needed benefits including health care often makes it hard for them to get a job or housing and many end up homeless, in emergency rooms (ERs), or are re-arrested. Though a lot of suggestions have been made to reduce incarceration for those with mental disorders, what lies understudied is specialty probation for such prisoners.
According to a recent study, specialized supervision on probation for individuals with mental illness can drastically reduce the odds of recidivism. In a specialty mental health probation program, the services of probation officers, with mental health expertise, are utilized to offer an individualized, treatment-oriented approach to probationers. According to Jennifer L. Skeem, lead researcher, “Specialty probation holds substantial promise as a method for reducing mass incarceration for people with mental illness.”
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Psychiatry, examined the effects of specialty probation versus traditional probation on 359 probationers with serious mental health disorders and functional impairments. About half of the offenders (176) were put on traditional or regular probation while the other half (183) were put on specialty probation. The probationers and officers were examined three times during the study period and follow-up records were obtained. The researchers also obtained FBI arrest records to examine the probationers who had re-offended in the five-year period, following their release.
Specialty probation better for incarcerated people with mental illness
According to the study findings, while specialty probation had no significant impact on violence, it appeared to be effective in reducing general recidivism. As compared to regular probationers, those supervised on specialty probation were nearly three times less likely to return to jail within two years post their release date.
Further, after two years, traditional probationers were 2.68 times more likely to be re-arrested; and after five years, the probability of re-arrests for traditional probationers was 64 percent compared to that of the specialty probationers, which was 38 percent.
It was also observed that specialty officers had better relationships with probationers, relied more on positive compliance strategies, and participated more in a probationer’s treatment. According to Dr. Skeem, when it came to reducing recidivism, positive approach appeared to be the key. “It’s about good, caring relationships with a professional. They seem to have that with specialty officers. The rules are clear. There’s fairness, there’s firmness in implementing the rules and then caring. It helps keep people out of trouble with the law,” she said.
Defending the upfront costs involved in specialty probation, Dr. Skeem offered a cost analysis that showed specialty mental health probation to save money over the course of two years.
Road to recovery
Imprisoning individuals with mental illness not only impacts law enforcement but also creates a burden on the budgets of the state and local law enforcement agencies. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), when in jail, individuals should have access to medication and support, get signed up for health coverage, and, if possible, get help in planning their release.
Once out of jail, it is pertinent for people with mental disorders to connect with a mental health rehab to get treatment for their malaises and get their lives back on track. As a leader of behavioral health care treatment, Sovereign Health of Florida offers each of its patients evidence-based interventions in a safe, private, and trigger-free environment. Treatment for mental health, at both our Pompano Beach and Fort Myers facilities, offers individualized treatment plans that combine the best of therapy and counseling sessions along with medication.
For more information about our finest mental health treatment programs or to know about our state-of-the-art mental health inpatient treatment centers at Florida, call our 24/7 helpline number and speak to our admission specialist. You can even chat online with one of our representatives for immediate assistance.
Sovereign Health Group is a leading addiction, dual diagnosis and mental health treatment provider. Call our admissions team 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to get the help you deserve.