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Book Reviews   |    
Correctional Mental Health Handbook
Reviewed by Dale Rauch, M.D.
Psychiatric Services 2004; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.55.5.596
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edited by Thomas J. Fagan and Robert K. Ax; Thousand Oaks, California, Sage Publications, 2003, 353 pages, $69.95

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It is a sad but true reality that our nation's jails and prisons have become among the largest providers of mental health care. Along with the explosion of the prison population in general has come a tremendously increased need for high-quality mental health care for our nation's incarcerated. It is against this backdrop that the editors of Correctional Mental Health Handbook offer this text with the goal of providing "a general overview of correctional mental health roles, issues, services, and programs to as broad an audience as possible." In my view, the book accomplishes this goal admirably. In addition, the editors hope that such a resource will spur academic programs to develop correctional mental health courses and that professionals who provide services will find guidance as they navigate the correctional setting. Finally, the handbook is intended to guide administrators of correctional mental health programs.

The book is well organized into three sections dealing with administrative-organizational issues, service and program delivery, and consultative-training roles. Of particular utility to program developers and administrators is the book's description of a three-level model of service delivery that can provide guidance to program administrators in a variety of settings with both diverse demands and resources. This text can guide efficient program development within existing resources as well as planning in a changing environment. It appropriately addresses the special needs of women, sexual offenders, juveniles, developmentally delayed persons, persons with substance abuse, persons with HIV infection, foreign-born individuals, and the elderly.

The first section provides a historical perspective and addresses organizational issues and ethics. As often happens with a text that has many contributors, a number of chapter introductions repeat historical material. However, this is only a minor distraction. The chapters are well organized, well written, and well referenced. The authors are well qualified, all having years of pertinent experience in both the clinical and administrative realms, and the editors share more than 40 years of experience.

The second section of the book focuses on services, programs, and management issues for particular diagnoses or populations. Although the section is thorough and certainly useful to a clinician, it is not a "how to" guide in any sense, which, I think, is most illustrated by the lack of case studies. Most of us in correctional work agree that, until you have done the work, you cannot understand the unique challenges—and rewards—such work can afford. Although case-based studies would help provide insight for the prospective clinician, in all fairness this was not one of the editors' goals. Better that the book induce academic programs to create courses that provide the real "on the ground" experience.

The third—and most brief—section provides a nice overview of the role of consultation to staff and administration as well as very useful information to guide the development and effective delivery of staff training.

Correctional Mental Health Handbook has a place on the shelf of any correctional health professional, particularly program leaders. It is also a must-read for clinical training directors who are considering correctional placements for their trainees.

Dr. Rauch is assistant professor of psychiatry and chief of prison psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.




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