Handbook of Correctional Mental Health, Second Edition

August 12, 2010

With the transition of patients with mental illness from the beds of psychiatric institutions into the community the need for knowledgeable mental health professionals continues to grow. Correctional psychiatry has evolved in recent years and presents special challenges for clinicians, which this handbook deftly addresses. Contributing authors with various backgrounds provide a broad range of expertise.

With the transition of patients with mental illness from the beds of psychiatric institutions into the community-and at times into the correctional system-the need for knowledgeable mental health professionals continues to grow. The introduction to the Handbook of Correctional Mental Health states, “correctional facilities have become the new mental health treatment centers for individuals with mental disorders.” Correctional psychiatry has evolved in recent years and presents special challenges for clinicians, which this handbook-edited by Charles L. Scott, MD-deftly addresses. Contributing authors-including psychiatrists, psychologists, attorneys, a judge, and other professionals-provide a broad range of expertise. The result of their work is a thorough volume, appropriate for mental health professionals working at all levels within the correctional system.

This updated edition (the first was published in 2005) is nearly double the length, with several additional topics on correctional mental health. The volume is divided into 3 sections; each focuses on discrete subject areas. The first section provides an introduction to core concepts as well as to legal topics related to the criminal justice system and community-based programs. This section also provides an overview of the relevant legal issues that pertain to the provision of care within the correctional setting.

The second section addresses both the evaluation and the care of individuals in custody and includes a discussion of the role of the mental health professional within the correctional culture; methods of assessment, including assessment of malingering; and the management of substance-using, disruptive, or aggressive inmates. Two chapters focus on trauma, including sexual assault, and the prevention of suicide. Other new chapters discuss quality improvement, documentation, and monitoring systems within the correctional system. The final section is dedicated to special inmate populations, including women, youths, and developmentally disabled and geriatric offenders. Finally, the special needs of “supermax” and death row inmates are addressed.

Clinical cases throughout the book provide practical examples that the reader can apply to the concepts discussed. At the end of each chapter, “Summary Points” highlight key concepts. Although the chapters that address quality assurance, management systems, and documentation may be less stimulating, they provide essential information for those responsible for implementing these systems.

While the book is thorough, it is not comprehensive. Discussion of issues related to gang activity within the prison system is limited. Gangs often engage in violent behavior, drug trade, and victimization of peers and are a challenge to health care providers. In addition, dialogue on the management of sex offenders is limited, as is coverage of civil commitment postincarceration.

This expanded Handbook of Correctional Mental Health will be a useful tool for clinicians and for individuals who wish to learn more about the prison system and those it keeps.