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Recidivism for mentally ill inmates not as high as believed


Inmates with mental illness have suffered with the reputation of being bounced back to prison as soon as they are released. A researcher from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University says it’s not true. Amy B. Wilson, assistant professor social work at the university has demonstrated that inmates with severe mental illnesses alone actually have lower rates of recidivism than prisoners with substance abuse issues or even no mental health issues.

Wilson took a novel approach to her study. She separated inmates into four categories: those with severe mental illnesses, those with a substance abuse problem, those with dual problems of mental illness and substance abuse and people with no symptoms of either disorder. When comparing the groups individually, the group with mental illness alone performed much better even when compared to those without mental illness or drug problems.

They then looked at the records of over twenty thousand inmates in the Philadelphia jail system and tracked their return rates over the next four years. They were able to categorize the inmates into the same four groups and follow any return to prison.

Of those readmitted to jail, 32% went back their first year out, 45% by year two, 54% on year three and by year four 60% of those remaining in free society. Taken altogether, at the end of four years, 54% of those with severe mental illness had returned to jail while 66% of those with drug and alcohol abuse did and 68% with mental illness-substance abuse did and 60% of those without any health disorder.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, International Journal of Law and Psychiatry

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