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Literature review on people with mental health conditions in correctional facilities

April 5, 2012

Schizophrenia Society of Ontario (SSO) has released a new report titled “Provincial Correctional Response to Individuals with Mental Illnesses in Ontario: A Review of Literature.” This report reviews available academic, gray and policy literature, and identifies key issues about the way the correctional system responds to individuals with mental health conditions.

In Ontario, the rates of individuals with mental health conditions are steadily increasing among the populations in correctional facilities. There is also evidence that the needs of this population are not being adequately addressed within the correctional system. This report identifies several key issues:

  • Philosophy of corrections emphasizes public safety, security, and risk management rather than therapeutic intervention;
  • Screening and assessment measures needed to identify persons with potential mental health concerns upon admission to the correctional institution are inadequate and inconsistent;
  • There are significant gaps in ongoing access to comprehensive and individualized treatment and supports within the correctional system;
  • Safety of individuals with mental health conditions within correctional settings is often compromised;
  • Due to insufficient release planning procedures at the institutional level and concurrent deficiencies in the community mental health sector, recently released individuals with mental health conditions experience notable challenges with community reintegration; and
  • Women, Aboriginal populations and individuals on remand are disproportionately affected by the gaps in the current correctional system.

Promising practices from other jurisdictions are identified to facilitate further discussion on how the above noted issues can be addressed. Overall, all of the examined practices emphasize the need for system-wide, holistic approaches to mental health which go beyond immediate healthcare needs; support and governance for the mental health personnel; external support and internal integration with other correctional staff and services; effective identification of service needs; and effective screening measures at the time of admission and during the period of incarceration.

To access the SSO literature review, visit

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