Understanding and preventing criminal recidivism among adults with psychotic disorders

Psychiatr Serv. 2007 Jun;58(6):773-81. doi: 10.1176/ps.2007.58.6.773.


The high prevalence of adults with psychotic disorders in the criminal justice system has received much attention recently, but our understanding of this problem is marked by diverging opinions. Mental health professionals point to deinstitutionalization and our fragmented mental health system as primary causes. Criminologists minimize the role of mental illness and contend that persons with and without mental illness are arrested for the same reasons. Meanwhile, practice guidelines offer little guidance to clinicians about how to address the problem. Drawing upon contemporary crime prevention principles as well as current knowledge of psychotic disorders and their treatment, this article presents a conceptual framework for understanding and preventing criminal recidivism. The framework highlights the importance of individual and service-system risk variables and emphasizes the central role of treatment nonadherence as a mediator between modifiable risk variables and recidivism. On the basis of the conceptual framework described in this article, three necessary elements of intervention are presented for preventing recidivism among adults with psychotic disorders: competent care, access to services, and legal leverage. Research is needed to further define and test these intervention elements as foundations for future service delivery efforts.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Comorbidity
  • Crime / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Crime / prevention & control*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dangerous Behavior*
  • Health Services Accessibility / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Prisoners / psychology
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychotic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Psychotic Disorders / therapy*
  • Risk Factors
  • Schizophrenia / epidemiology
  • Schizophrenia / therapy*
  • Treatment Refusal / legislation & jurisprudence
  • United States