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Brief Mental Health Screening for Corrections Intake

NCJ Number
Corrections Today
Date Published
June 2006
3 pages
Publication Series

This report describes two brief, free mental health screening tools that have proven effective in identifying various levels of mentally ill detainees at intake: the Correctional Mental Health Screen (CMHS) and the Brief Jail Mental Health Screen (BJMHS).


The CMHS uses different questionnaires for men and women. The one for men asks 12 yes/no questions, and the one for women asks 8 yes/no questions about current and lifetime indications of serious mental disorder. Both questionnaires take 3 to 5 minutes to administer. In testing, the CMHS proved effective in identifying both male and female inmates who needed mental health treatment, excluding obviously mentally ill inmates from the testing highlighted CMHS's ability to identify those inmates whose symptoms were less obvious. The high rates of mental disorder found in the followup clinical assessment showed the screen's potential use in providing the correct diagnosis and treatment for the inmates. The BJMHS is an eight-item yes/no questionnaire that takes approximately 2 to 3 minutes to complete. Minimal training is required to administer it. Inmates who answer "yes" to two or more questions about current mental disorders or acknowledge having been hospitalized or taking medication for mental or emotional problems are referred for further evaluation. The BJMHS proved effective in screening male inmates, but was less effective with female inmates. It is being refined by adding items related to stress and anxiety disorders that are more prevalent among female inmates. Recommendations are offered for ways to improve the administration of the instruments. 6 notes

Date Published: June 1, 2006