The Role of Stigma Toward Mental Illness in Probation Officers’ Perceptions of Risk and Case Management Decisions – 2018

Recommendations for supervising offenders with mental illness have evolved from a narrow focus on treating psychopathology to an integration of mental health treatment and correctional interventions. Probation officers likely have inflated perceptions of risk for offenders with mental illness, which may result in improper risk assessment and misinformed risk management practices. In a sample of 89 probation officers, we examined perceptions of risk for probationers with and without mental illness and explored whether stigmatizing attitudes toward mental illness affect perceptions of risk and risk management strategies. Officers did not overestimate risk for offenders with mental illness, and stigma toward mental illness bore little influence on risk ratings and case management decisions. However, officers did rate the offender with mental illness as higher risk than the nondisordered offender and chose more punitive responses to a violation he committed—despite being informed that the offenders were of the same risk classification.

Jennifer Eno Louden, Sarah M. Manchak, Elijah P. Ricks, Patrick J. Kennealy
Criminal Justice and Behavior, February 6, 2018