Offenders With Mental Illness Have Criminogenic Needs, Too: Toward Recidivism Reduction

Many programs for offenders with mental illness (OMIs) seem to assume that serious mental illness directly causes criminal justice involvement. To help evaluate this assumption, we assessed a matched sample of 221 parolees with and without mental illness and then followed them for over 1 year to track recidivism. First, compared with their relatively healthy counterparts, OMIs were equally likely to be rearrested, but were more likely to return to prison custody. Second, beyond risk factors unique to mental illness (e.g., acute symptoms; operationalized with part of the Historical-Clinical-Risk Management-20; Webster, Douglas, Eaves, & Hart, 1997), OMIs also had significantly more general risk factors for recidivism (e.g., antisocial pattern; operationalized with the Level of Service/Case Management Inventory; Andrews, Bonta, & Wormith, 2004) than offenders without mental illness. Third, these general risk factors significantly predicted recidivism, with no incremental utility added by risk factors unique to mental illness. Implications for broadening the policy model to explicitly target general risk factors for recidivism such as antisocial traits are discussed.