Community Mental Health Services and Criminal Justice Involvement Among Persons with Mental Illness

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type

Book Chapter


Mentally Ill Persons; Mental Disorders; Community Mental Health Services; Criminal Law


Health Services Research | Mental and Social Health | Psychiatric and Mental Health | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology


Dr. Fisher is also editor of the book in which this chapter is included: Community-Based Interventions for Criminal Offenders with Severe Mental Illness (Research in Community and Mental Health, Volume 12), ISBN 0762309725.

Summary: The original ‘plan’ for deinstitutionalization of America's population of persons with severe and persistent mental illness saw community mental health services as providing many of the functions of large mental hospitals in community settings. While substantial effort and resources have been committed to this enterprise, many persons with mental illness encounter significant problems in adjusting to life in the community. Prominent among these problems is the disproportionate involvement in the criminal justice system of persons with psychiatric disorders. This problem, popularly described as the ‘criminalization’ of mental illness, often threatens the clinical stability and safety of persons with mental disorders, and at the same taxes heavily the resources of the criminal justice system. This paper reviews data exploring the relationship between levels and availability of community-based services and the likelihood that persons with mental illness will become involved with the criminal justice system. Finding no relationship, we conjecture that community mental health services are effective with only certain individuals, and move toward a taxonomy of offenders with mental illness. This classification scheme takes into account the relationship between psychiatric disorder, lifestyle and pre-morbid criminal involvement, and is designed to inform system actors with regard to the targeting of these resources.

Citation: William H. Fisher, Nancy Wolff, Kristen Roy-Bujnowski (2002), Community mental health services and criminal justice involvement among persons with mental illness, in William H. Fisher (ed.) Community-Based Interventions for Criminal Offenders with Severe Mental Illness (Research in Community and Mental Health, Volume 12), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.25-51. DOI: 10.1016/S0192-0812(03)80016-8.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Systems and Psychosocial Advances Research Center Publications and Presentations