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To What Extent Does Prisoners' Mental Illness Undermine Programming Effectiveness?

NCJ Number
Beth Ann Skinner
Date Published
December 2010
160 pages
This study investigated the extent to which prisoners' mental illness affects the effectiveness of prison programs.
Findings from the study on the impact of prisoners' mental illness on the effectiveness of prisoner reentry programs show that while vocational training had positive and significant effects on employment rates and full-time employment, the presence of mental illness had a negative significant impact on prisoners' ability to complete vocational training and GED classes and have successful employment outcomes. In addition, the findings indicate that having a mental illness significantly increased the likelihood of recidivism among inmates participating in prisoner reentry programs. This study examined the dynamics between prisoner mental illness, prison program completion, and successful reentry in a sample of male offenders (n=3,426) released on parole from correctional facilities in Iowa. The main focus of the study was to determine the impact of mental illness on prison vocational and educational programming on reentry outcomes, and the interaction between mental illness and prison programming on reentry outcomes. The findings show that effective prison programming has positive significant effects on prisoner reentry outcomes and that these outcomes can be negatively impacted due to the presence of prisoner mental illness. Study limitations and implications for policy and practice are discussed. Tables, figures, references, and appendixes