Reentry Planning for Mentally Disordered Inmates: A Social Investment Approach

Nancy Wolff, Rutgers University - New Brunswick
J.R. Bjerklie, Rutgers University - New Brunswick
Tina Maschi, Rutgers University - New Brunswick

This paper argues that the most sensible way to respond to the needs of offenders with mental illness is to treat their needs as an investment, and to evaluate alternative responses to their needs int erms of the health and justice outcoems they produce. Reentry planning, in this sense, is a social investment. It protects the health outcomes produced by correctional health care and produces justice outcoems to the extent that the public is protected from future crime associated with untreated mental illness. Cost estimates are constructed for different reentry investments using inmate profiles for the universe of male mentally disordered inmates in New Jersey prisons. Estimates are constructed for three reentry investments: a unviersal program providing 6 or 12 months of coordination; a two-tier program providing 6 and 12 months of coordination; and a four-tier program providing 1 to 18 months of coordination. These estimates are based on four schemes for classifying need and risk among mentally disordered inmates. The classification schemes impose different assumptions about the equivalence of need and risk within the population. Which of the social investments yields best value lies not in their costliness or their ability to save costs but whether they yield a set of mental health and justice outcoems that the public values enough to fund.

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Updated 05/20/2006