On the Over-Valuation of Risk for People with Mental Illnesses
People with mental illnesses and those who have co-occurring substance use disorders are overrepresented in jails across the U.S. While a lack of available, high-quality community-based resources and diversion alternatives is a contributing factor to these numbers, another reason is a common misperception that people with mental illnesses pose a greater threat to public safety than those without. Often judges, even with good intentions, make decisions about pretrial release and sentencing with these misperceptions in mind. This brief, however, highlights seven consensus statements from a panel of judges, researchers, and forensic psychiatrists on the overestimation of risk among this population and notes that they will more likely be victims of crime than the ones perpetrating them. It also calls for a better understanding of risk among this population in an effort to reduce the numbers of people with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system.
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