GAO Report Examines Prisoners With SMI and Strategies to Reduce Recidivism

Posted Feb 20, 2018

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has issued a report on inmates with serious mental illness, which generally includes conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and strategies for reducing recidivism. Key topics include:

  1. What is known about crimes committed by inmates with serious mental illness incarcerated by the federal and selected state governments
  2. What is known about the costs to incarcerate and provide mental health care services to those individuals
  3. What strategies have the federal and selected state governments and studies identified for reducing recidivism among individuals with serious mental illness

About two-thirds of inmates with a serious mental illness in the Federal Bureau of Prisons were incarcerated for four types of offenses—drug (23%), sex offenses (18%), weapons and explosives (17%) and robbery (8%)—as of May 27, 2017. These inmates were incarcerated for sex offenses, robbery, and homicide/aggravated assault at about twice the rate of inmates without SMI, and for drug and immigration offenses at about half or less the rate of inmates without SMI. Systemwide, for fiscal year 2016, BOP spent about $72 million on psychology services, $5.6 million on psychotropic drugs and $4.1 million on mental health care in residential reentry centers. The report also discusses similar findings for selected state systems.

The GAO report describes the Criminogenic Risk and Behavioral Health Needs Framework developed in 2012 by the Council of State Governments Justice Center in collaboration with federal agencies and and experts from correctional, mental health and substance abuse organization. The framework is an approach to reduce recidivism and promote recovery among adults under correctional supervision with mental illness, substance use disorders or both. It calls for correctional agencies to assess individuals’ criminogenic risk, substance abuse and mental health needs. Results from the assessment are used to target supervision and treatment resources based on these risks and needs, with highest priority placed on individuals with the highest criminogenic risks. The report outlines guidelines and strategies to reduce recidivism and presents findings of their effectiveness.

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