Getting People with Serious Mental Illnesses on Track: Insights from the Health-based Model of Desistance [2020]

Scholarship from the life-course paradigm has produced much evidence on the crime-reducing benefits of turning points such as securing a good job or developing a stable, positive relationship. Building on these insights, recent work has demonstrated the utility of incorporating health into the study of desistance; for various reasons, both mental and physical health statuses have been shown to influence the likelihood of achieving these key life-course milestones. What is less well understood, however, is how mental and physical health may interact with one another and how this model applies to certain salient subgroups in criminal justice, such as those with serious mental illnesses. Importing the mental health–crime literature, we examine both the main and synergistic effects of mental and physical health on employment focus and relationship worry among a sample of persons with serious mental illness (N = 184). Findings from logistic and ordinary least squares regression models reveal that better physical health is associated with improved employment focus and that this effect is moderated by mental health status. In addition, better physical health is associated with a decrease in worry over one’s relationships. These findings point to the value of including physical and mental health states in life-course and desistance research, studies of persons with serious mentally illnesses, and intervention and policy efforts to improve lives and promote desistance.

Nathan W. Link, Jeffrey T. Ward, Bruce G. Link
Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, September 21, 2020
DOI: 10.3138/cjccj.2020-0001