International Seminar on Serious Mental Illness – International Challenges for Criminal Justice

On the evening of Tuesday 7th of May 2024 the International Network for Criminal Justice (IN-CJ) hosted an international seminar on serious mental illness – international challenges for criminal justice. The seminar was chaired by Dr Coral Sirdifield, Senior Research Associate from CaHRU, University of Lincoln and began with a presentation from Tonya Van Deinse, a Research Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina. Here, Tonya defined serious mental illness and pointed to research studies that evidence the high prevalence of serious mental illness amongst people in the criminal justice system. She outlined the need not only for appropriate individual-level access to care, but also for system-level interventions to ensure that people’s needs are addressed.

Tonya introduced the idea of using a sequential intercept model to promote collaboration between health and justice agencies and ensure that people in need of support are diverted or referred into services as early as possible in the criminal justice pathway. She discussed the need for appropriate screening, assessment and follow-up processes and training for criminal justice staff, and gave a brief overview of the specialty probation officer role that has been introduced in some parts of the USA and evaluated in a number of research studies.

Following this, Shelley Turner, Interim Executive Director, Inpatient Services in Victoria, Australia, and Professor Charlie Brooker, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK, gave responses to Tonya’s presentation based on their knowledge and experience. This included discussion of work that has been conducted by the Council of Europe, and the need for clarity on what the role of criminal justice staff should be, the need to address stigma, intersectionality, past trauma, and organisational and workforce challenges.

The audience were then invited to submit questions or comments, and a wide-ranging discussion ensued, highlighting the variability of practice across different jurisdictions and the continuing need to develop and evaluate practice in this area in order to meet the needs of people with serious mental illness in the criminal justice system.
The seminar is now available to listen to as a podcast which can be accessed here. It can also be accessed on iTunes and YouTube podcasts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *