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Effectiveness of Criminal Justice Liaison and Diversion Services for Offenders With Mental Disorders: A Review
David A. Scott, Ph.D.; Sinead McGilloway, Ph.D.; Martin Dempster, Ph.D.; Fred Browne, B.Sc., F.R.C.Psych.; Michael Donnelly, Ph.D.
Psychiatric Services 2013; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201200144
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Dr. Scott is with the Centre for Public Health, Dr. Dempster is with the School of Psychology, and Dr. Donnelly is with the Centre for Excellence in Public Health, all at the Queen's University, Belfast, United Kingdom. Dr. McGilloway is with the Department of Psychology, National University Ireland, Dublin, Ireland. Dr. Browne is with Medical Associates, Belfast, United Kingdom. Send correspondence to Dr. Scott at ICS-B, Grosvenor Rd., Belfast BT12 6BJ, United Kingdom (e-mail: david.scott@qub.ac.uk).

Copyright © 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association


Objective  The authors reviewed studies of the effectiveness of criminal justice liaison and diversion (CJLD) services in which outcomes of participants in these services were compared with those of offenders with mental illness who received no intervention or a standard intervention. The authors synthesized existing evidence with respect to changes in mental health status or criminal recidivism.

Methods  A comprehensive search (1980–2012) of more than 30 generic and specialist databases identified 6,571 published and unpublished studies. The studies, which varied considerably in methodological approach and overall quality, were systematically appraised according to Campbell-Cochrane guidelines. Ten studies met inclusion criteria. Key outcomes included a reduction in offending and postintervention changes in mental health.

Results  Synthesized findings indicated that CJLD services appeared to be effective in identifying offenders with mental disorders and that participation in CJLD services had a positive impact on criminal justice and mental health outcomes.

Conclusions  Although the methodologies of existing studies are only moderately rigorous, the overall findings suggest that CJLD services can be beneficial. Their effectiveness depends on the model of service delivery, the availability of community services, and the engagement of offenders with mental disorders in treatment. The successful implementation of CJLD services requires a clearer recognition of the importance of systems-of-care principles.

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Table 1Studies of mental health courts (MHCs) with and without assertive community treatment (ACT)
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Table 2Studies of diversion services


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