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Impact of Community Treatment and Neighborhood Environment on Recidivism in Mental Health Courts

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $31,999)

The purpose of the proposed study is to investigate the impact of community treatment and neighborhood environment on recidivism among offenders with mental health problems in Mental Health Courts (MHCs) and in traditional courts. Although treatment is believed to lead to reduced
recidivism for offenders with mental illness, little research has been conducted. Further, neighborhood environments are known to influence recidivism generally, but environmental factors have not been
examined In the MHC context. Study aims are to examine: (1) whether participation in MHCs leads to more positive outcomes in individual treatment and neighborhood environments compared to participation in traditional courts over time; (2) the impact of treatment and neighborhood factors on
recidivism among offenders with mental health problems; and (3) whether the effects of treatment and neighborhood factors change before and after court enrollment/arrest and whether MHC involvement reduces recidivism over and above changes in treatment and neighborhood environments. To reach these aims, data from the MacArthur MHC study will be analyzed. The sample includes 715
offenders with mental illness from four counties, where approximately half of the sample was diverted to MHCs, and half remained in traditional courts; participants were interviewed at two time points
(baseline and six months) and objective arrest data were collected. Mean age was 36.83 years, 59.9% were men, and 47.5% were White. Hierarchical linear modelling and propensity score weighting will be
used to investigate individual, neighborhood, and site-level variance on recidivism controlling for selection bias. Individual level factors -treatment compliance, perceptions, and usage- will be used to predict recidivism as first level factors; neighborhood level factors -rate of poverty, unemployment, vacant/abandoned housing, public benefits recipients, and single-parent families- will be used as
second level factors. Neighborhood level factor data will be obtained from the American Community Survey (U.S. Census Bureau), and linked with residential history data obtained from participants. Lastly, jurisdiction will be included as a third-level factor. Understanding treatment and neighborhood characteristics associated with recidivism for offenders with mental illness can help to more efficiently target research, practice, and policy in the future. If this study finds that community treatment and neighborhood environment reduces recidivism, evidence-based practice and policy decisions to enlarge the scope of MHC services and consideration of environment should be encouraged. Lastly, this research, which will be disseminated broadly, will shed new light into future interventions and/or policies that aim to reduce the recidivism for this difficult-to-treat population of offenders.

This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law.


Date Created: September 15, 2015