Correctional Mental Health
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Correctional Mental Health

From Theory to Best Practice

Tom J. Fagan, Robert K. Ax

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eBook - ePub

Correctional Mental Health

From Theory to Best Practice

Tom J. Fagan, Robert K. Ax

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About This Book

A research-to-practice text offering a biopsychosocial approach to treating criminal offenders

Correctional Mental Health is a broad-based, balanced guide for students who are learning to treat criminal offenders in a correctional mental health practice. Featuring a wide selection of readings, this edited text offers a thorough grounding in theory, current research, professional practice, and clinical experience. It emphasizes a biopsychosocial approach to caring for the estimated 20% of all U.S. prisoners who have a serious mental disorder. Providing a balance between theoretical and practical perspectives throughout, the text also provides readers with a big-picture framework for assessing current correctional mental health and criminal justice issues, offering clear strategies for addressing these challenges.

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Chapter 1 Criminal Justice and Mental Health Systems: The New Continuum of Care System

The Criminal Justice System: An Overview

The criminal justice system in the United States consists of a loose confederation of more than 50,000 federal, state, and local government and private agencies. These agencies can be divided into four broad categories based on their primary mission and include the police, the courts, jails and prisons, and community corrections.

The Police

The primary mission of the police is to maintain public order through the prevention, detection, and/or investigation of crime. When crimes are reported to the police or when police discover the commission of a crime, they are tasked with investigating, typically through witness statements and evidence gathering, to determine what happened and who is culpable. When suspects are identified, the police arrest them and bring them to the police station where the arrest is recorded through the booking process.
Special appreciation is extended to Dr. Susan Williams, Community Corrections Mental Health Clinical Supervisor, Virginia Department of Corrections, who provided the composite case history and responses to interview questions that were used in this chapter. Views expressed by Dr. Williams are hers alone and do not necessarily represent those of the authors or the Virginia Department of Corrections.

The Courts

Once a suspect is booked, a prosecutor decides whether to charge him or her with a crime. Suspects not charged are released. Those who are charged begin the court process, which is often divided into pretrial and trial stages. During the pretrial stage, suspects, now known as defendants, are formally notified of the charges being brought against them and informed of their constitutional rights. For misdemeanant charges, the defendant may participate in an immediate trial without a jury. This is called a summary trial. When felony charges are involved, an initial appearance before a judge is held during which the judge determines if there is probable cause (i.e., presence of sufficient evidence to believe that the arrest is justified) to hold the person for a preliminary hearing and to determine if bail (i.e., a monetary guarantee that the defendant will appear during the subsequent criminal proceedings) is appropriate.
Following the initial appearance, a preliminary hearing occurs before a judge to determine if sufficient evidence exists to believe that the defendant actually committed the crime for which he or she is charged and to inquire about the appropriateness of arrest and search procedures used by the police. If the judge finds that sufficient evidence exists, then the defendant's case goes before a grand jury in states that use the grand jury system. Grand juries may choose to indict the defendant or not based on evidence presented by the prosecutor. If the grand jury decides not to indict, then the prosecutor must drop all charges and release the defendant. In states without a grand jury system, formal charges are written in a document called an information, which summarizes the formal charges, the laws that have been violated, and the evidence that supports the charges.
Once a grand jury indictment or an information document is filed with the trial court, the defendant is scheduled for an arraignment, during which the formal charges are presented and the defendant is allowed to enter a plea. During the arraignment, about 95% of all felony defendants plead guilty through plea bargaining arrangements made between the prosecutor, the defense attorney, the defendant, and the judge in many jurisdictions. If the defendant chooses to plead not guilty, then a trial date is set. About 2% of criminal cases involve jury trials. The remaining 3% of criminal cases are decided in bench trials (i.e., those with a judge and no jury; Bohm & Haley, 2008).
Defendants found not guilty through the trial process are released. Defendants found guilty are sentenced by the judge. Depending on the nature of the crime, sentences may involve a range of options including fines, community service, probation, intermediate punishments (i.e., more restrictive than probation but not as restrictive as incarceration— for example, home confinement or boot camps), incarceration, or death. Judicial discretion in sentencing is restricted to some degree by factors such as constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, statutory provisions (e.g., sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimum sentences), and prevailing judicial philosophy, and is influenced by the personal beliefs of the judge and by information provided to the judge about the defendant in presentence reports or other historical documents about the defendant.

Jails and Prisons

When bail is denied or cannot be paid, defendants are frequently housed in jails pending and during the trial. Jails are also used to house individuals who have been found guilty at trial but have not yet been sentenced by the judge, sentenced offenders who have been given relatively short sentences (i.e., traditionally less than one year), and probation and/or parole violators pending a dispositional hearing. By their nature, jails tend to be operated primarily by local governments or their surrogates (e.g., private companies) and house an extremely diverse group of individuals (e.g., males and females, dangerous versus nonviolent, young versus old, mentally ill versus mentally healthy, etc.) during a high-stress period in the lives of these individuals (i.e., the trial and sentencing process). Although most jails in the United States are relatively small, housing fewer than 50 people, some, such as those in Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York, are quite large, housing in excess of 10,000 individuals (Minton & Sabol, 2009). Additionally, some smaller jurisdictions have banded together to form regional jails in an effort to improve efficiency and cost saving. Whereas some individuals may remain in a jail setting for an extended period of time due to lengthy pretrial challenges or trial proceedings, most jails have extremely high turnover rates, making programming and rehabilitative services, other than basic crisis intervention, difficult (Tartaro & Ruddell, 2006).
Prisons are used primarily to house individuals who have been sentenced to a period of incarceration ordinarily exceeding one year. Prisons are tasked with multiple, sometimes competing, missions including protecting the general public; deterring future crime; punishing convicted felons for their crime(s); and rehabilitating offenders through various educational, vocational, and counseling programs. Prisons are typically operated by state or federal governments or by private companies contracted to manage all prison operations or specific prison services (e.g., food services, medical services, or mental health services). At the end of 2008, approximately 6.6% of state offenders and 16.3% of all federal offenders were housed in prisons operated by private vendors (West & Sabol, 2009).
Although it is generally true that most jails are operated by local governments and most prisons are operated by state or federal governments, any discussion of jails and prisons would not be complete without mentioning the presence of other ways in which the United States confines individuals. Private prisons and jails have already been mentioned. However, the military has its own system for trying and confining felons, as do Native American tribal courts. At the end of 2007, these facilities housed 1,794 and 2,163 offenders, respectively (West & Sabol, 2008). Additionally, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) operates a number of facilities for the detention of illegal immigrants and housed approximately 9,700 detainees in 2007, with an additional 20,785 detainees housed in local jails (West & Sabol, 2008). Finally, the U.S. government currently operates or has operated a number of prisons in foreign countries (e.g., Guantánamo in Cuba, Bagram in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib in Iraq, CIA shadow prisons, etc.), which house individuals accused of crimes against the United States (e.g., terrorism).

Community Corrections

Community corrections have been defined broadly as “a range of programs, supervision, and punishments aimed at the criminal offender … [that] involve any treatment or punishment outside of the institution of the prison or jail” (Whitehead, Pollock, & Braswell, 2003, p. 155). As such, community correctional programs might include federal, state, or local programs such a...

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