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Female Mentally Ill Offenders and Their Community Reintegration Needs: An Initial Examination

NCJ Number
International Journal of Law and Psychiatry Volume: 24 Issue: 1 Dated: 2001 Pages: 1-11
Stephanie Hartwell
Date Published
11 pages
This study examined the unique differences in the characteristics and needs of female mentally ill offenders and community reintegration as compared to male mentally ill offenders.
Today, more women and more mentally ill persons are spending time in prison and are being released to the community upon sentence completion in the United States. These released offenders are expected to reside in the community post-prison release. However, finding a place to live and employment, as well as manage medications and money and cope with the adjustment from prison to the open community can be extremely stressful for those with mental illness and a criminal history. Mentally ill offenders, male or female, are confronted with unique challenges during community reintegration. Yet, female mentally ill offenders encounter different challenges in community reintegration which pose a separate set of issues. This study analyzed data collected on mentally ill offenders 3 months prior to release from prison and tracked for up to 3 months post-prison release in the community. The data consisted of all client contacts made and recorded by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, Forensic Transition Team program, implemented in 1998. The data were used to describe female mentally ill offenders and compare them to male mentally ill offenders. Female mentally ill offenders differ in ways from their male counterparts. Female mentally ill offenders fulfill different roles within their social/family network and are viewed distinctly diagnostically and in terms of public safety. They also engage in alternative community survival strategies, including social service utilization and drug use. In addition, female mentally ill offenders might exceed their male counterparts because they are fewer in number overall, more educated, less thought disordered, and less predatory. References