New Implementation Guide to Aid in Successful Transition from Criminal Justice Settings

By: Paolo del Vecchio, M.S.W., Director, SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services; and David Morrissette, Ph.D., LCSW, CAPT, US Public Health Service, SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services

Transition planning can improve health and safety outcomes for individuals with behavioral health conditions who are leaving jails and prisons and moving back into the community. Research has shown that the overrepresentation of people with mental and substance use disorders in jails and prisons consistently produces poor outcomes for both the affected people and for correctional agencies. To help community leaders improve these outcomes, SAMHSA has released a new publication, Guidelines for Successful Transition of People with Mental or Substance Use Disorders from Jail and Prison: Implementation Guide.

This guide provides 10 guidelines for behavioral health, justice, and community leaders. The guidelines provide action steps agencies can take to work across systems to design and implement evidence-based programming to promote recovery and help ensure successful reentry from jails and prisons. These guidelines are adaptable to a wide variety of communities and justice systems. The guide details successful examples of community programs. Best practices include:

  1. Conduct universal screening. Conduct screenings early in the booking or intake process to detect behavioral health disorders.
  2. Follow up positive screens with comprehensive assessments. Use comprehensive assessments to guide program placement and service delivery.
  3. Design individual treatment plans. Use information from the screening and assessment process to develop individualized treatment and service plans.
  4. Develop collaborative responses that match need and risk. Establish collaborative responses between behavioral health and criminal justice that match need and risk.
  5. Identify interventions in transition planning practices. Anticipate that periods following release are critical and identify interventions for critical junctures.
  6. Establish policies to facilitate continuity of care. Establish strategies that promote direct linkages for post-release treatment and supervision.
  7. Coordinate justice system and community services. Coordinate justice system and community services to promote personal recovery and maintain public safety.
  8. Share information to advance cross-system goals. Share information from assessments and programs across different points of the criminal justice system.
  9. Encourage cross training. Facilitate collaboration between workforces and agencies through cross training.
  10. Collect and analyze data. Evaluate program performance through data collection and plan for long-term sustainability.

Communities around the country can implement these steps to reduce recidivism, increase public safety, and encourage recovery.

View the Guide, , ,

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