Online Program

Severe and Persistently Mentally Ill Misdemeanor Offenders in DeKalb County, Georgia (2012): A Descriptive Analysis

Monday, November 2, 2015

Sonia Tetlow, MPH, Policy, Research, Analysis and Development Office, CDC, Office of the Associate Director for Policy, Atlanta, GA
Victoria L. Phillips, PhD, Department of Health Policy and Management, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Background: DeKalb County, Georgia has a large number of repeat offenders who are mentally ill and established a dedicated Mental Health Division in the Public Defender’s Office (PDO) in 2008 to meet the need.

Methods: A retrospective study was conducted using records from the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office and PDO to describe the population of indigent mentally ill misdemeanor offenders arrested in 2012. Data were collected and analyzed on: severe and persistently mentally ill (SPMI) diagnosis, history of arrests, duration of incarceration, types of jail housing, including step-down mental health units, and medical and crisis stabilization services.  Usage and costs were analyzed.

Findings: SPMI misdemeanor offenders had a lifetime average of 20 arrests in DeKalb County. In 2012 the most frequent charge was criminal trespassing (25%) followed by probation violation (12%).  SPMI misdemeanor offenders spent an average of 64 days in jail at a housing cost of $18,921. While in jail, they spent an average of 8 days in the crisis stabilization unit, 39 days (for males) and 18 days (for females) in the step-down mental health units. Overall SPMI offenders spent 70% of their time in jail in mental health housing.

Implications: SPMI offenders are being housed in jail for significant periods of time in relation to minor, non-violent offenses, and receiving mental health services focused primarily on stabilization.  Development of targeted interventions to improve access to therapeutic mental health treatment and housing post-release are likely to reduce recidivism and improve the health status of those with SPMI.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Biostatistics, economics
Provision of health care to the public
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe the incarceration experience of mentally ill misdemeanor offenders in the jail, including duration, types of housing, movement within the jail and the associated costs. Evaluate the efficacy of mental health services provided within a jail setting and compare these services to therapeutic behavioral health treatment.

Keyword(s): Mental Health System, Criminal Justice

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the principal on this study focusing on the warehousing of mentally ill offenders in the Jail from both an economic and public health perspective. Among my interests has been the evaluation of policies in order to inform more efficient and equitable strategies.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.