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Marisa Mauro

Marisa Mauro Psy.D.

Standards for Correctional Mental Health... the New Psych Hospital

Standards for correctional mental health... the new psych hospital

Is corrections in the United States the new institution for the mentally ill? Yes, according to the "Revised Standards for Psychology Services in Jails, Prisons, Correctional Facilities, and Agencies" which appeared in the July 2010 special issue of the journal, Criminal Justice and Behavior. America's jails and prisons house more mentally ill persons than psychiatric hospitals. Los Angeles County jail, Cook County Jail, and New York's Riker's Island, are named as the country's three largest institutions for the mentally ill.

Today, more than 2.3 million individuals are incarcerated and upwards of half of those are mentally ill according to some reports. In addition, there are 5 million persons under supervision for probation or parole. Although the percentage of mentally ill within that population is unknown, available data suggests that the number is significant.

The standards, which represent the International Association for Forensic and Correctional Psychology's (IACFP) third revision of psychology's service standards in correctional settings, are meant as a guide and source of reference for the profession and corrections administration. They provide ethical principles for correctional mental health care, administrative recommendations, and clinical recommendations for treating this growing population.

The authors cite a number of advantages of providing mental health care to inmates in correctional settings:

We should all understand that offenders, mentally ill or not, entrusted to the custody of correctional facilities and agencies, benefit in a number of ways from the highest quality of rehabilitative and mental health services that we can ethically and practically offer. First, quality mental health services contribute to maintaining institution security by reducing inmate and staff stress levels and helping to facilitate offender participation in rehabilitative programming. Second, they increase the likelihood of successful reintegration of mentally ill offenders into the community by promoting adequate community-based mental health care follow-up, thereby contributing to reduced recidivism. Third, by adhering to the guidelines of these standards, correctional organizations, agencies, and staff can reduce the likelihood of expensive civil litigation or other legal actions that can result from inadequate correctional mental health services. Therefore, correctional mental health services that ethically abide by professional standards of practice remain one of the foremost means of reducing the likelihood of civil and/or criminal challenges.

Click here to read the full report and recommendations.