Online Program

Probationers with Severe Mental Illness: Probation Officers' Perceptions of Supervision Challenges across Rural and Urban Settings

Monday, November 2, 2015

Tonya VanDeinse, M.S.W., School of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Gary Cuddeback, PhD, Program on Mental Health Services Research, Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
Stacey Burgin, M.A., School of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Amy Blank Wilson, Ph.D., School of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Background/Purpose: Large numbers of persons with mental illness are on community supervision arrangements (Crilly et. al, 2009; Ditton, 1999, Glaze & Herberman, 2013). Probationers with mental illness have higher rates of recidivism compared to probationers without a mental illness (Porporino & Montuik, 1995; Skeem & Eno Louden, 2006). Despite the lack of a strong evidence base, Specialty Mental Health Probation has been widely disseminated; however, more information is needed about the challenges of supervising probationers with mental illness to inform best practices for these specialty programs.

Methods: We report the results of a survey of 615 probation officers and their perceptions of the challenges associated with supervising probationers with mental illness.

Findings: Officers reported that the most frequently perceived challenges included: lack of employment opportunities (75.1%, n=462), lack of behavioral health treatment (73.3%, n=451), lack of social support (68.1%, n=419), and offenders’ resistance to supervision (45.9%, n=282). Results suggest that: (a) officers identify probationers with mental illness as difficult to supervise; (b) officers do not feel adequately trained to supervise probationers with mental illness; and (c) the lack of services and resources present barriers to compliance for probationers with mental illness.

Implications: Probation officers are now on the front lines providing direct service to offenders with severe mental illness.  Practice and policies should be put in place to ensure officers have the training and resources needed to supervise this high-risk and high-need population and more research is needed about effective supervision practices for probationers with severe mental illness.

Learning Areas:

Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Discuss probation officers' perceptions of the challenges and barriers to supervising probationers with severe mental illness.

Keyword(s): Criminal Justice, Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Not Answered