Behavioral health predictors of criminal recidivism

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Alyssa Leigh Raggio (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
L. Alvin Malesky

Abstract: Research shows that correctional facilities face high rate of behavioral health disorders, with various mental health disorders and substance use disorders occurring in higher rates in jails and prisons than the general population. This is a problematic situation for these facilities due to their legal responsibility to provide inmates with necessary treatment, as well as the fact that they are typically unequipped to identify and care for individuals with these disorders. Determining correct prevalence rates requires adequate measurement tools, as well as agreement among constructs deemed as “mental health disorders”. Research studies typically use a variety of methods to measure mental health disorders in these settings, leading to some discrepancy among findings. Some studies use restrictive criteria for what they deem as “serious mental illness”, while others use broad definitions to capture a wider range of disorders, which can also result in behaviors related to arrests. This discrepancy between definitions of what constitutes mental illness can make it difficult for research to provide an accurate or meaningful estimate of prevalence in these facilities. Jails and prisons also face difficulties in accurately determining their specific facility’s prevalence of behavioral health disorders, due to the frequent use of inadequate screens that are used in an attempt to save time and manage short-staffing. There is also a response bias based on who is doing the screening. Inmates are less likely to answer truthfully to uniformed staff members when asked about substance use. High rates of recidivism are also a problem for correctional facilities. The frequent reoffending of inmates adds to the issue of overcrowding that these facilities face. Recidivism affects society insofar as an increase in recidivism translates to an increase in victimizations. Society is also affected financially, with high recidivism rates leading to higher costs for tax payers toward incarcerations. Although the research on behavioral health risk factors of recidivism mainly focuses on prison settings, mental health disorders have been found to be related to a higher risk of recidivism, specifically the comorbidity of both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. This study examined the relationship between behavioral health and recidivism rates among 283 inmates in a rural county jail. Behavioral health was measured using the Comprehensive Addictions and Psychological Evaluation, Fifth Edition (CAAPE-5), a structured diagnostic interview that assesses substance use disorders and the mental health disorders that often co-occur with these diagnoses. The prevalence rates for behavioral health disorders reflected the literature in regard to jails having high rates of both mental health and substance use disorders. The majority of participants were found to have at least one behavioral health condition. No specific diagnoses were found to be related to higher rates of recidivism.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Corrections, Recidivism, Rural jails
Prisoners -- Mental health services
Prisoners -- Drug use
Criminal behavior, Prediction of
Prisons -- North Carolina -- Waynesville

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