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In the United States, more mentally ill people are incarcerated than treated.

–A. Swanson, Washington Post

Inadequate treatment for mentally ill offenders has become a public health crisis across the country. Given the lack of state and federal funding as well as treatment options and mental health facilities in our cities, many offenders enter the system with serious, untreated mental health problems. These problems often become debilitating for the individual and a may pose a threat to the safety of staff and other inmates.

Correctional counselors are in a unique position to observe inmate behavior and will likely be called upon to provide input during a mental health assessment of an offender. You will observe the inmate during daily activities and interactions with staff and other inmates. These observations help the mental health professionals make a sound mental health assessment. Note that equal to your role as an observer is your ability to communicate properly and accurately. Counselors and other correctional staff must be knowledgeable about mental disorders, skilled in recognizing specific signs and symptoms, and able to make appropriate referrals based on these indications.

Your readings about the responsivity principle note that failure to incorporate responsivity into correctional treatment or evaluations of correctional programs often results in “masking” the treatment effect. In this discussion:

  • Explain how this happens.
  • Describe how failure to attend to responsivity affects the overall effectiveness of a treatment program.
  • Describe one of the mistakes that have been made using classification systems from your unit readings.
  • Explain what can be done to prevent recurrence of the error.



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