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Diagnostic Centers - Are They the Edsels of Corrections?

NCJ Number
Corrections Magazine Volume: 8 Issue: 5 Dated: (October 1982) Pages: 32-34,36
S Gettinger
Date Published
4 pages
Diagnostic centers today are used to determine to which institutions inmates will go to serve their sentences.
Doctors and psychologists also compile a file of background information, medical histories, and educational test results to accompany the inmates. In Arkansas, the diagnostic center's main task is to determine whether new inmates are fit for a full day's work in the fields. Some States, such as Arizona, Michigan, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Alabama, changed the name of their prison reception centers to eliminate the word 'diagnostic.' Arguments against the perpetuation of diagnostic centers are that the 'diagnostic' reports are usually not very thorough and are not used to provide treatment, the information gathered is mistrusted by institutional officials, and diagnostic costs are expensive. In addition, the diagnostic centers require so many mental health professionals that the rest of the prison system gets shortchanged, and overcrowding in the prisons makes the diagnostic centers' work irrelevant. Nevertheless, some State corrections officials feel the diagnostic center still has role. To increase the usefulness of the diagnostic center, its staff should report to the courts, not merely to the prison system. Kansas, Nebraska, and Utah all use diagnostic centers.