Offenders living with mental illness: How are they perceived by future professionals? – 2018-02

This study investigates the attitudes of Criminal Justice and Social Work majors toward offenders living with mental illness. Multivariate regression analyses were used to explore differences in attitudes between student majors, controlling for factors such as age, race, and political ideology among a sample of 358 respondents. Participant attitudes and beliefs were assessed using the Attitudes toward Mentally Ill Offenders scale which consists of four factors: negative stereotypes, rehabilitation/compassion, community risk, and diminished responsibility.

Results of multivariate regression analyses indicated that Social Work students were less likely to have negative stereotypes toward offenders with mental illness and tended to be more supportive of their potential for rehabilitation.

It is important to understand attitudes toward and beliefs about adult offenders living with mental illness among future professionals likely to serve this population. Understanding these attitudes has the potential to both inform the higher education curricula as well as strengthen the implementation of evidence-supported practices and policies that require cross-systems collaboration.

Cynthia Weaver, Joohee Lee, Hwanseok Choi W Wesley Johnson, Carl Clements
Journal of Social Work, February 15, 2018