Understanding community re-entry of former prisoners with mental illness: a conceptual model to guide new research

Behav Sci Law. 2005;23(5):689-707. doi: 10.1002/bsl.642.


Criminal justice, mental health, and social service professionals face a myriad of role expectations in working with prisoners with mental illness to facilitate community re-entry. These expectations include those related to law enforcement, social welfare, and administrative efficiency. The challenge for front line workers and the multiple systems that employ them is to integrate all these expectations effectively on behalf of the individual as well as the community. Current models of re-entry for individuals leaving prison with mental illness focus on the management and interaction of service systems. This paper presents a model of prisoner re-entry that incorporates a larger social context, illustrating dynamics related to both individuals with mental illness leaving prison and their interaction with the community setting. This model was generated through an interdisciplinary team effort. It was refined through a focus group process that included advocates, community members and other informants from mental health and criminal justice systems in five states. The model is designed to generate new questions for research that address both individual and community level issues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Community Mental Health Services
  • Criminal Law
  • Humans
  • Mentally Ill Persons*
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Research
  • Social Work, Psychiatric