Revised standards for psychology services in jails, prisons, correctional facilities and agencies

July 8, 2010

Revised standards for psychology services in jails, prisons, correctional facilities, and agencies appear in the July special issue of the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior.

The three largest mental health institutions in the U.S. are not hospitals, but penal institutions: New York's Riker's Island, Chicago's Cook County Jail and the Los Angeles County Jail. Seriously mentally ill individuals compose about 15% of the over two-million individuals currently incarcerated in the U.S.. Unfortunately, many correctional systems lack resources to meet the constitutionally mandated needs of mentally ill individuals in their custody.

The standards represent the International Association for Forensic and Correctional Psychology's (IACFP) second revision of psychology services standards in correctional settings, which were first published in 1980. They are the result of more than a year's effort by the IACFP's revision committee, chaired by Richard Althouse, Ph.D., president of the IACFP.

"Offenders, mentally ill or not, entrusted to the custody of correctional facilities and agencies, benefit in a number of ways from the highest quality of rehabilitative and mental health services," writes Althouse in the introduction to the special issue. These benefits include helping to maintain institutional security, an increased likelihood of successful integration back into the community, and reduced likelihood of expensive civil litigation or other legal actions that can result from inadequate correctional mental health services.

IACFP's revised standards provide information for both administrators and clinicians in areas relevant to providing optimal mental health services, including organizational policies and ethical principles, intake screening, staffing rations, mental health services, and intervention, records, research, and references. They can be read free for a limited time at http://cjb.sagepub.com/content/37/7/749.full.pdf+html.

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