Identification, Referral, and Services for Individuals With Serious Mental Illness Across Multiple Jails

J Correct Health Care. 2020 Apr;26(2):168-182. doi: 10.1177/1078345820920703.


Identification of serious mental illness (SMI) among those entering jail is the first step in diversion or appropriate services in jail. Although best practices guidelines for identifying SMI exist, many jails do not employ these standards. Researchers describe identification of SMI in the "practice as usual" and compare/contrast the results with a validated screening instrument for 2,961 individuals across eight jails. Overall, 20% scored positive on the screening instrument, and staff identification yielded an additional 16%. While the instrument was consistent in identifying the proportion of persons with SMI across each county (16% to 22%), the proportion identified by jail staff varied greatly (3% to 33%). Moreover, referral to-and receipt of-subsequent services for the staff-identified individuals varied greatly, leading to recommendations for improved processes.

Keywords: best practices; correctional mental health; identification; mental health; screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening*
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Prisoners*
  • Prisons*
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Severity of Illness Index