Principal Investigators: Jennifer L. Skeem, Ph.D. and Jennifer Eno Louden, M.A., University of California, Irvine
Persons with mental disorder are vastly overrepresented in parole populations. Relative to their counterparts without mental disorder, these parolees are twice as likely to fail community supervision. In fact, in California, parolees have the highest likelihood of supervision failure in the nation. To date, little research has addressed this issue.
The goal of the proposed research is to improve understanding of risk of parole failure for California parolees with mental disorder, determine how well extant policies and procedures are addressing the problem, and build upon existing procedures and programs to improve the system. The goals and method of three related studies designed to address two essential questions are outlined below.
Question 1: How serious is the problem? We are accessing existing databases to (a) describe the prevalence of identified mental disorder among California parolees, and (b) compare parolees with- and without- mental disorder in their rates of return to prison for a technical violation vs. new offense.
Question 2: What is the problem? We will complete three steps to identify risk factors for technical violations and new crimes for parolees with mental disorder. First, we will conduct four focus group discussions with parolees with mental disorder and (separately) with their parole agents to identify any needs related to reoffending that are specific to these parolees. Second, we will add any mental disorder-specific needs that we identify through focus groups to the Levels of Services, Case Management Inventory (LS/CMI), a well-validated risk assessment and case management tool. We will administer this supplemented LS/CMI to parolees with identified acute mental disorder (EOP, n=150), identified stable mental disorder (CCCMS, n=150), and no identified mental disorder (n=100). We will compare the three groups’ pattern of scores on the supplemented LS/CMI to determine which risk factors and needs are particularly prevalent among those with mental disorder. This will help to identify “the problem” that underlies these individuals’ relatively high rates of return to prison.
Third, for these 400 participants, we will obtain rates of return to prison for new crimes or technical violations at 12-months. This will allow us to identify whether and how the best predictors of return to prison differ those with- and without- mental disorder. Ideally, supervision and rehabilitation efforts would focus on changeable risk factors for return to prison for parolees with mental disorder.
In summary, this stage-wise study is designed to provide an understanding of the frequency, severity, and nature of the problem of supervision failure for parolees with mental disorder. Its goal is to identify and retain what the California system does well, and build areas of weakness into areas of strength. The larger goal is to inform evidence-based practice for these parolees.