Today's policymakers are interested in alternatives to incarceration for people with mental illness that are both evidence-based and cost-effective. Specialty mental health probation has been shown to reduce recidivism (e.g. Skeem et al., 2017). An article recently published in the journal Psychiatric Services details this study, illustrating how well-implemented specialty probation yields substantial savings, and should be considered in current justice reform efforts for people with mental illness.  

Reuters Health covers an article highlighting Prof. Skeem's publication on Specialty Probation.  The article covers an interview with Prof. Skeem, which underlines key concepts on the success of special mental health probation:  “The rules are clear. There’s fairness, there’s firmness in implementing the rules and then caring. It helps keep people out of trouble with the law."

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 accepted for publication in JAMA Psychiatry. Study findings indicate that well-implemented specialty probation for justice-involved people with mental illness appear effective in reducing general recidivism, compared to traditional probation. Reform efforts for people with mental illness could leverage probation—a ubiquitous and revitalized node of the justice system. 

Congratulations to lab manager, Sara Ellis, for receiving the Haas Scholar grant to conduct her Psychology undergraduate Honor's Thesis project on "Reducing Institutional Violence: Environmental Risk Factors in Psychiatric Hospitals".   She has also received the Cal Alumni Association Leadership Award, which recognizes students at UC Berkeley who demonstrate innovative, initiative-driven leadership impacting their academic, work, or community environments. 

Professor Skeem moderated a panel that focused on risk assessment at the Inclusive Al Symposium on May 10, 2017. This panel discussed the promise and perils of using risk assessment instruments and other ‘algorithms’ and risk assessment to inform policing and criminal justice decisions.  Panelists included Mark Bergstrom, Chris White, Jessica Saunders and Sharad Goel.  See the presentations and discussion here!

Professor Skeem consulted with the Science Education department at KQED to produce an informative video geared towards high school students that introduces risk assessment tools in the criminal justice system.

We are excited have Dr. Stefanie Rezansoff join our research team.  Dr. Rezanoff is a post-doctoral research fellow, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. She holds a PhD in Population and Public Health from Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, Canada). Stefanie’s research focuses on pharmaco-epidemiology of prescribed psychotropic medication in justice-involved and homeless populations, and the health/functional outcomes of psychotropic medication adherence.

The Cal Policy Lab facilitates close working partnerships between California state policymakers and researchers at UCLA and UC Berkeley to generate scientific evidence that solves California's most urgent programs, including homelessness, poverty, crime, and education equality.

Lab members presented two papers on self-perceptions of risk for violence & self-harm at this year’s American Psychology-Law Society (AP-LS) 2017 Conference in Seattle, Washington on March 16 - 19.

Do Patients’ Minimize Self-Perceived Levels of Risk, When Talking to Clinicians Rather than Researchers?  Lina Montoya, B.A.; Jen L. Skeem, Ph.D.; Sarah M. Manchak, Ph.D.

Patients’ Self-Perceptions of Risk for Self-Harm Out Predict Clinical Judgment and Assessment  Sara Ellis; Michael S. Galloway, B.A.; Jen L. Skeem, Ph.D.; Sarah M. Manchak, Ph.D.

In February, Stefanie van Goozen (from Cardiff) presented an insightful talk on early detection and prevention of criminal behavior that was jointly sponsored by the Mack Center for Mental Health and Social Conflict and the Institute for Human Development. Professor van Goozen is collaborating with Professor Skeem on projects related to Prevention & Early Intervention with At-Risk Juveniles and Identifying New Leverage Points for Intervention.