Promising Effects of Specialty Mental Health Probation on Reducing Mass Incarceration for People with Mental Illness

Tune in to K-CBS for an interview with Dr. Skeem about this study, which will be aired Sunday 8/20 every hour on the hour. 

Probation has become a cornerstone of efforts to reduce mass incarceration. Although understudied, specialty probation could improve outcomes for the overrepresented group of people with mental illness.

An article by Jennifer Skeem, Ph.D., Sarah Manchak, Ph.D., and Lina Montoya B.S. was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) – Psychiatry. The study assesses whether specialty probation yields better public safety outcomes than traditional probation, for justice-involved people with mental illness. In this quasi-experiment that included 359 probationers with mental illness, findings indicate that despite no specific effect on violence, well-implemented specialty probation appears effective in reducing general recidivism. At two years, an estimated 28.6% of specialty and 51.8% of traditional probationers had been re-arrested. Reform efforts for people with mental illness could leverage probation—a ubiquitous and revitalized node of the justice system. 

Here is a Berkeley News press release highlighting the importance of these findings.