North Carolina Prison Study Finds Better, Safer Outcomes with Mental Illness Offender Diversion Program – Washington Daily News
RALEIGH – New medical research from the North Carolina prison system supports the use of alternative treatment for mentally disordered offenders.
Published today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the study evaluates Therapeutic Diversion Units (RTUs), which are treatment-oriented penal accommodation for offenders with mental illness. TDUs are staffed with behavioral health, nursing and custody professionals. They offer an alternative to restrictive housing.
The study examines data on North Carolina offenders who have both diagnosed mental illness and a history of restrictive housing placements for their behaviors. The researchers found that offenders assigned to a UDT instead of restrictive housing were at least three times less likely to commit other offenses, harm themselves, or require inpatient mental health treatment.
Todd Ishee, commissioner of prisons for North Carolina, said correctional systems have long struggled to provide appropriate care for offenders with psychological disorders.
“You have to protect the safety of prison staff and other offenders, so you have to remove from the general population someone who poses a threat, at least temporarily,” Ishee said. “But at the same time, you don’t want to put someone in restrictive housing for an action they’ve taken in a time of crisis. Better to give them the help they need.
Previous studies have found that mentally disordered offenders are 30-60% more likely to be assigned to restrictive housing. Charles Mautz, co-author of the new study, said the data indicates that UDTs are a viable and safe alternative for offenders with mental illness when they might otherwise be assigned to restrictive housing.
“What we have is a rigorous and objective assessment of the particular results of this method of housing and program delivery, relative to another, for a similar population,” said Mautz, unit administrator. internal research of the state prison system, the Innovation Institute. “The main implication is that therapeutic diversion units can offer a therapeutic alternative to restrictive housing that benefits this vulnerable group of offenders without presenting an increased security risk. “
The results of the study indicate that offenders assigned to a UDT instead of restricted accommodation were:
Three times less likely to commit a disciplinary offense
Five times less likely to commit a serious offense involving violence or smuggling
Three times less likely to require inpatient mental health treatment
Three times less likely to threaten or self-harm
· Four times less likely to self harm.
Self-injury outcomes, including suicide, are critical indicators of the impacts UDTs can have, said Dr Gary Junker, also study co-author and director of health and wellness for the state prison system. Previous prison research has indicated that almost half of all self-harm or self-harm occurs in restrictive housing.
“There is a body of research that indicates how restrictive housing can be harmful for people with a mental health disorder – depression, anxiety, psychiatric distress, even feelings of dehumanization and loss of identity,” Junker said. “We now have data, which comes from our own offender populations, to guide us in determining best practices. “
The study was a collaboration between the North Carolina Department of Public Safety – Prisons, the UNC-Chapel Hill Injury Prevention Research Center and the Public Health Division of the Department of Health and from North Carolina Social Services. Researchers looked at data from 2016-2019 for nearly 3,500 offenders with mental illness. Of these, 463 had been assigned to a TDU, and the rest to restrictive accommodation.
Tim Moose, NC DPS deputy chief secretary for the Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice Division, said the study reflects a commitment to both innovation and the provision of appropriate care to detained offenders. by the state.
“I would like to thank our partners at the Center for Injury Prevention Research UNC-CH and DHHS for their assistance and collaboration in this important study,” said Moose. “And more particularly, thank you to Dr Junker and our mental health professionals, nurses and prison staff working in our establishments, who since 2016 have been working to implement and refine the innovative concept of TDU in prisons in order to ” improve both security and provide much needed mental health treatment to the prison population, most of whom will return to live in our communities.