Assessing treatment options for mentally ill offenders

José Ashford
Professor of Social Work, Arizona State University

Key Findings

  • Treatment of mentally ill offenders may benefit from person-centered interventions.
  • Mentally ill offenders were found to have similar cognitive links to crime and violence as non-mentally ill offenders, and thus similar cognitive interventions may in some cases be utilized across both groups.


In the article, “Generic Correctional Programming for Mentally Ill Offenders: A Pilot Study,” Ashford examined differences in criminal attitudes among three groups of offenders diagnosed with serious mental disorders. This pilot study was part of a larger study designed to examine the effectiveness of an integrated treatment approach developed in California to reduce criminal recidivism. Over a four-year period, this study targeted high-rate, mentally ill offenders who completed cognitive intervention in a Monterey County program. Participants were administered cognition tests at the beginning of the study, and were followed for 12 months as they received different types of treatment. This study found that individuals with mental disorders have similar cognitive links to crime and violence as non-mentally disordered offenders. As a result, the authors recommend that similar cognitive interventions may be used for both groups. Utilizing these types of person-centered interventions may help to improve treatment of mentally ill offenders.

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