Major Risk Factors for Recidivism Among Offenders with Mental Illness
Over one million individuals with serious mental illness are under some form of correctional supervision in the U.S. Even with specialized programs in place, offenders with mental illness are substantially more likely than their relatively healthy counterparts to recidivate. Part of the reason current programs may fail is that they are rooted in a “direct cause” policy model that casts mental illness as the cause of criminal justice involvement and mental health services as the solution. Substantial evidence indicates that the positive clinical outcomes observed for effective mental health services (e.g., functional improvement) rarely translate into positive criminal justice outcomes (e.g., reduced recidivism). Moreover, the “direct cause” model fits only a minority of OMIs (perhaps 1 in 10); the vast majority have developed the same proximate, powerful risk factors for recidivism as offenders who are not mentally ill, including adherence to antisocial beliefs and
attitudes, deficits in self-‐regulation, and poor problem solving skills. Cognitive-‐behavioral treatment (CBT) programs that explicitly target these risk factors are well validated for reducing recidivism and are widely implemented in criminal justice settings-‐-‐but not with OMIs.