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Examining Criminogenic Risk Levels Among People with Mental Illness Incarcerated in US Jails and Prisons

NCJ Number
Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research Volume: Online Dated: 2021
A. B. Wilson; et al
Date Published

This study examines criminogenic risk levels of individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) involved in the justice system compared to justice-involved individuals without mental illness.


The sample (N = 436) consisted of ninety-three individuals with SMI incarcerated in a county jail in a mid-size Midwest city, 217 individuals with SMI incarcerated in a state prison in the US Northeast, and 126 individuals without mental illness incarcerated in a state prison in the US Southwest. Results indicated that people with SMI incarcerated in jail and prison had higher overall criminal risk levels than prison inmates without mental illness. Results further demonstrated that, on average, higher percentages of persons with SMI had high/very high criminogenic risk scores. Finally, we noted that persons with SMI scored higher on most of the eight criminogenic risk domains measured by the Level of Service Inventory. These findings are possibly the most compelling to date in the growing body of literature demonstrating that justice-involved people with SMI have elevated criminogenic risk comparable to or greater than their non-mentally ill peers involved in the justice system. Consequently, treatment programs and interventions for justice-involved individuals with SMI need to explicitly target criminogenic needs into treatment efforts. (Publisher abstract provided)