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Psychiatric hospital capacity, homelessness, and crime and arrest rates


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As a result of developments in pharmacology, stricter standards for involuntary commitment, and changes in public expenditures, there has been a dramatic decline in the capacity of public psychiatric hospitals to maintain America's most severely mentally ill. Psychiatric deinstitutionalization has led to an increased presence of persons with mental illness in urban areas, many “falling through the cracks” of community-based services. This is hypothesized to have contributed to homelessness, crime, and arrests. Individual-level research has documented disproportionate and increasing numbers of mentally ill persons in jails and prisons. It has also found higher rates of violence and arrest among persons with mental illness compared to the general population. This study takes a macro-level social control approach and examines the relationships between psychiatric hospital capacity, homelessness, and crime and arrest rates using a sample of eighty-one U.S. cities. I find that public psychiatric hospital capacity has a statistically significant negative effect on crime and arrest rates, and that hospital capacity affects crime and arrest rates in part, through its impact on homelessness. In addition, I find no crime-reducing effect of private and general psychiatric hospital capacity.
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Northern Illinois University
KEYWORDS: mental illness, homelessness, crime, psychiatric hospitals,
As a result of developments in pharmacology, stricter standards for
involuntary commitment, and changes in public expenditures, there has
been a dramatic decline in the capacity of public psychiatric hospitals to
maintain America’s most severely mentally ill. Psychiatric
deinstitutionalization has led to an increased presence of persons with
mental illness in urban areas, many “falling through the cracks” of
community-based services. This is hypothesized to have contributed to
homelessness, crime, and arrests. Individual-level research has
documented disproportionate and increasing numbers of mentally ill
persons in jails and prisons. It has also found higher rates of violence
and arrest among persons with mental illness compared to the general
population. This study takes a macro-level social control approach and
examines the relationships between psychiatric hospital capacity,
homelessness, and crime and arrest rates using a sample of eighty-one
U.S. cities. I find that public psychiatric hospital capacity has a
statistically significant negative effect on crime and arrest rates, and that
hospital capacity affects crime and arrest rates in part, through its
impact on homelessness. In addition, I find no crime-reducing effect of
private and general psychiatric hospital capacity.
* This research was supported in part by a faculty fellowship from the Social Science
Research Institute at Northern Illinois University. I am grateful to Tom McNulty,
Richard Miech, Jo Phelan, and Jukka Savolainen for their helpful comments on an
earlier version of this paper. This manuscript was reviewed and accepted for
publication under the editorship of Ray Paternoster, former editor of Criminology.
4 MARKOWITZ.DOC 1/27/2006 4:06:33 AM
Sociologists and criminologists have sought to explain the rise and
expansion of formal institutions of social control, including the criminal
justice, mental health, and welfare systems. Studies have focused largely
on the role of socioeconomic conditions such as the contraction of labor
markets and the size of minority populations as threats to the social order
(Grob, 1994; Inverarity and Grattet, 1989; Jackson, 1989; Liska, 1992;
Liska and Chamlin, 1984; Liska et al., 1999; Piven and Cloward, 1971;
Scull, 1977; Sutton, 1991). However, comparatively less attention has been
given to the consequences, or outcomes associated with the capacity of
social control institutions. Classic work by Penrose (1939) demonstrated
an inverse relationship between the prison and psychiatric hospital
populations in European countries. Palermo and colleagues (1991) showed
a similar relationship for the United States as a whole. The impact of
psychiatric hospital capacity on crime and arrest rates across U.S. cities,
however, has not been directly examined.
In recent decades, the inpatient capacity of public psychiatric hospitals
has dropped dramatically. This has stimulated much individual-level
research documenting the increasing numbers of persons with mental
illness in jails and prisons, many of whom are homeless. Moreover, there
has been increased attention to the risk of homelessness, violence, criminal
behavior, and arrest among persons with severe mental illness. Building on
this research, in an effort to understand the impact of psychiatric hospital
capacity in terms of macro-level social control processes, I first discuss
changes in the U.S. mental health care system over the last several decades
and their impact on the criminal justice system. I then examine the
relationships between psychiatric hospital capacity, homelessness, and
crime and arrest rates for a sample of cities in the United States.
Until the 1960s, substantial numbers of persons with mental illness
could be treated in large, publicly funded hospitals. Based on National
Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates, in 1960, about 563,000 beds
were available in U.S. state and county psychiatric hospitals (314 beds per
100,000 persons), with about 535,400 resident patients. By 1990, the
number of beds declined to about 98,800 (40 per 100,000) and the number
of residents to 92,059 (NIMH, 1990). Several factors contributed to this
drop. First, medications were developed that controlled the symptoms of
the most debilitating mental disorders (for example, schizophrenia).
Second, an ideological shift, advocating a more liberal position on
confinement led to states adopting stricter legal standards for involuntary
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commitment (dangerousness to self or others). Third, fiscal policy
changed, including the shifting of costs for mental health care from states
to the federal government (for example, Medicare, Medicaid, Social
Security Disability Income), followed by budget cuts and substantial
underfunding of public mental health services (Gronfein, 1985; Issac and
Armat, 1990; Kiesler and Sibulkin, 1987; Mechanic and Rochefort, 1990;
Redick et al., 1992; Weinstein, 1990). These trends and associated policies
are generally referred to as the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill.1
The sharp decline in public psychiatric hospital capacity has been offset
to some extent by inpatient units in private psychiatric and general
hospitals. An important component to the changing nature of psychiatric
hospitalization is the increasing role of general hospitals. Emergency
rooms and psychiatric units in general hospitals provide acute treatment
for those with mental illness and can bill Medicaid for doing so (Mechanic,
McAlpine, and Olfson, 1998). Although these hospitals may contribute to
cities’ social control capacity, they still do not provide the long-term
treatment found in public psychiatric hospitals. Therefore, as many have
argued, the capacity for maintaining and treating America’s mentally ill,
especially the most severely impaired and economically disadvantaged
patients, has substantially diminished (Ehrenkranz, 2001; Lamb and
Bachrach, 2001; Torrey, 1995).
Many patients were discharged from state hospitals into the
community. Others, as a result of stricter standards for involuntary
commitment, were not even admitted—an “opening of the back doors”
and “closing of the front doors.” Moreover, in the early 1960s the average
length of stay was about 6 months, but by the early 1990s it had declined to
about 15 days. Overall, the rate of admissions increased slightly (NIMH,
1990). Thus, patients are often stabilized (given medication) and released
back into the community, many times without adequate follow-up
treatment and support (Wegner, 1990). Not surprisingly, substantial
numbers of these patients end up being readmitted. This has been referred
to as the “revolving door” phenomenon (Kiesler and Sibulkin, 1987).
Historically, psychiatric hospitals have functioned as a source of control
of persons who are unable to care for themselves and whose behavior may
be threatening to the social order (Grob, 1994; Horwitz, 1982). An
important consequence of reduced hospital capacity is that a large portion
of persons with severe mental illness now live in urban areas with less
supervision and support. Although many do well, others lack “insight”
into their disorders, go untreated, or have difficulty complying with
1. Because many patients ended up in nursing homes, halfway houses, and the
criminal justice system, some have referred to this process as
transinstitutionalization (Torrey, 1997).
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medication regimens, and are unable to support themselves (Mechanic,
1999). This presents considerable difficulties for families and others who
are often unable or unwilling to deal with persons whose behavior may at
times be unmanageable or threatening (Avision, 1999).
Deinstitutionalization is hypothesized by many to have resulted in an
increased number of persons at risk of homelessness and publicly
troublesome behavior, increasing the burden on the criminal justice
system (Finn and Sulllivan, 1988; Goldsmith, 1983; Grob, 1994; Dowdall,
1999; Issac and Armat, 1990; Johnson, 1990; Lewis et al., 1991; Mechanic
and Rochefort, 1990; Morrisey, 1982; Task Force on Homelessness and
Severe Mental Illness, 1992; Warner, 1989). Consequently, much
individual-level research has focused on the increased proportion of
mentally ill persons incarcerated, the likelihood of violent and criminal
behavior among the mentally ill, the “criminalization” of mental illness,
and the prevalence of mental illness among homeless persons. Despite the
relevance of this research for macro-level social control processes, there
has been no research directly examining the relationships of hospital
capacity, homelessness, and crime at the city-level.
In the aftermath of deinstitutionalization, several studies have
investigated the extent to which prisons and jails have supplanted public
psychiatric hospitals as institutions of social control of the mentally ill.
These studies examined the frequency of arrest, jail, and imprisonment
among people admitted into psychiatric hospitals before and during
deinstitutionalization (Adler, 1986; Arvanites, 1988; Belcher, 1988;
Cocozza, Melick, and Steadman, 1978; Goldsmith, 1983). A study in New
York found that the percentage of patients with prior arrests increased
from 15 percent in the 1946 to 1948 period to 32 percent in 1969 and to 40
percent by 1975 (Melick, Steadman, and Coccozza, 1979). A study of five
states reported a 17-percent increase in the percentage of patients with
prior arrests between 1968 and 1978 (Arvanites, 1988). Studies of
imprisonment were less conclusive, however. For example, in a study of six
states, Steadman and colleagues (1984) reported an overall increase (from
8 percent to 11 percent) in the percentage of prison inmates with prior
mental hospitalization between 1968 and 1978. Although the increase
occurred in only three states, it was enough to outweigh the decrease for
the other three, yielding a net increase. Some researchers thus concluded
that the mentally ill are being overarrested, but not overimprisoned, and
instead are being warehoused in city and county jails (Adler, 1986; Lamb
and Grant, 1982; Palermo et al., 1991, Pogrebin and Regoli, 1985; Teplin,
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1990). However, a recent nationally representative survey of state and
federal prisoners, jail inmates, and probationers indicates that persons
who reported currently or ever having a “mental or emotional condition”
are overrepresented in all those groups for both violent and property
offenses, but not for drug offenses (Ditton, 1999). That study estimates
that up to 16 percent of persons in prisons and jails may have a mental
illness, many of whom have committed serious offenses. There are now
more persons with mental illness in jails and prisons than in psychiatric
hospitals (Torrey, 1995).
Because of a lack of appropriately trained staff and screening
procedures, many persons are retained in jails and prisons without
adequate treatment. These inmates are less likely than others to be
released on bail, more likely to experience abuse from guards and other
inmates, and are at an increased risk of suicide (Torrey, 1995). Thus,
corrections facilities serve, in part, as alternatives to psychiatric hospitals.
Although many jails and prisons provide mental health services, and
several communities have programs to divert mentally ill offenders from
jail to community treatment, the availability of these services and
programs are limited relative to the need for them (Goldstrom et al., 1998;
Morris, Steadman, and Veysey, 1997; Steadman, Morris, and Dennis,
How disproportionate numbers of the mentally ill end up in criminal
justice settings can be understood in several interrelated ways. One is that
it results from the “behavior” of the criminal justice system. That is, in the
face of limited treatment options, disturbing behavior that might have
been dealt with medically is now more likely to be treated as criminal
behavior. For example, even though police may recognize some disruptive
behavior as resulting from mental illness, they often have little choice but
to use “mercy bookings” as a way to get persons into mental health
treatment. Police are now one of the main sources of referral of persons
into mental health treatment (Engel and Silver, 2001; Lamb et al., 2002).
Also, police, who see troublesome situations through the lens of their role
as “law enforcers” are motivated to maintain their authority in conflict
situations, often invoking the power of arrest to do so. These processes
have led some to argue that mental illness has been “criminalized,” with
mentally ill suspects more likely to be arrested than suspects who are not
mentally ill (Lamb and Weinberger, 1998; Lamb et al., 2002; Steury, 1991;
Teplin, 1990).
The evidence in support of the criminalization hypothesis comes
primarily from systematic observation of police-citizen encounters in
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major cities. One study showed that mentally ill suspects are about 20
percent more likely to be arrested than their counterparts (Teplin, 1984).
However, a more recent study of police-citizen encounters in twenty-four
police departments in three metropolitan areas contradicts those findings
(Engel and Silver, 2001). The study also showed that other factors, not
considered in previous research, such as whether suspects are under the
influence of drugs, are noncompliant, fight with officers or others, as well
as the seriousness of their offense predict the likelihood of arrest. An
important implication of their research is that if mentally ill persons are
overrepresented in criminal justice settings, it is not solely attributable to
discriminatory treatment on the part of police, but in part, due to a greater
likelihood of arrest-generating behavior.
Much research has examined a second way that mentally ill persons are
more likely than others to end up in criminal justice settings—that is, the
direct relationship between mental disorder and the likelihood of violent
and criminal behavior (Hiday, 1995; Hodgins, 1993; Link, Andrews, and
Cullen, 1992; Link et al., 1999; Monahan, 1992; Steadman and Felson,
1984). Several strategies have been used. One approach samples jails or
prisons and administers diagnostic inventories to determine the prevalence
of mental illness among inmates. Estimates from these studies vary, but
have shown that up to 20 percent of those incarcerated meet diagnostic
criteria for a serious mental disorder, with about 5 percent having
psychotic disorders (Roth, 1980; Steadman et al., 1987; Teplin, 1990, 1994),
a rate higher than that of the general population. Another approach, using
samples of those with a mental illness, finds a higher incidence of self-
reported violence and arrest compared to the general population (Link et
al., 1992; Steadman and Felson, 1984). One of the more rigorous
approaches uses representative samples from the general population to
estimate the prevalence of mental disorder and asks respondents about
their involvement in violence and crime. These studies show that those
who suffer from severe mental disorders are at an increased risk of
violence and arrest (Link et al., 1992, 1999; Swanson et al., 1990).2 In many
cases, those experiencing certain psychotic symptoms may misperceive the
actions of others (including police officers) as threatening and respond
aggressively (Link et al., 1999). These studies show, significantly, that the
association between mental disorder and violence or arrest holds after
2. Other studies show the risk of violence among the mentally ill is increased when
persons have a history of prior violence and co-occurring substance abuse disorders
(Monahan et al., 2001). Estimates from the Epidemiological Catchment Area and
National Comor bidity studies indicate that about one-half to three-fourths of
persons who had an alcohol, or other substance-related disorder throughout their
lifetimes had at least one other mental disorder (Kessler et al., 1994; Robins and
Reiger, 1991).
4 MARKOWITZ.DOC 1/27/2006 4:06:33 AM
controlling for comparable risk factors, such as sex, age, race, and
socioeconomic status.
The effect of hospital capacity on crime and arrest rates at the city-
level manifests itself in another set of ways. Psychiatric hospitals provide
a place to stay (at least temporarily) for mentally ill persons. Given
limited affordable housing options for the mentally ill, cities with less
psychiatric inpatient capacity may have higher rates of homelessness
(Bachrach, 1992; Jencks 1994; Mechanic and Rochefort, 1990). Studies
estimate that approximately one-third of homeless persons meet
diagnostic criteria for a major mental illness (Jencks, 1994; Lamb, 1992a;
Shlay and Rossi, 1992). Including substance-related disorders, the figure
is closer to 75 percent.
Homelessness is considered to be an important pathway to
incarceration among the mentally ill (Lamb and Weinberger, 2001).
Surveys of jail and prison inmates find that mentally ill offenders are
more likely than other inmates to have been homeless at the time of
arrest and in the year before arrest (DeLisi, 2000; Ditton, 1999;
McCarthy and Hagan, 1991). Because of a lack of community treatment
programs and limited staffing (critical for monitoring medication
compliance), personal resources, and social supports, many mentally ill
homeless persons are at increased risk of police encounters and arrest
for not only “public order” types of offenses, such as vagrancy,
intoxication, or disorderly conduct, but also for more serious types of
crimes, such as assault (Dennis and Steadman, 1991; Hiday et al., 2001;
Estroff et al., 1994; Hiday, 1995; McGuire and Rosenbeck, 2004;
Mechanic and Rochefort, 1990; Steadman, McCarty, and Morrisey, 1989;
Teplin, 1994; Teplin and Pruett, 1992).
Although the presence of homeless persons and public order offenses
may be primarily a nuisance, they are a significant source of neighborhood
disorder, generating fear and reducing social cohesion among
neighborhood residents, thus facilitating more serious crime, such as
robbery (see Markowitz et al., 2001; Skogan, 1990). In addition, high levels
of urban disorder, including the visibility of homeless mentally ill persons,
has led many cities (for example, New York) to take aggressive policing
approaches that may contribute to the overrepresentation of mentally ill
persons in jails and prisons.
The vulnerability of the homeless mentally ill also increases their risk of
being the victims of crime (Dennis and Steadman, 1991). They are easier
targets for offenders. Insights from routine activities theory suggest that
homeless persons have reduced levels of “capable guardianship” necessary
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to protect themselves from crimes (Felson, 2002; Hagan and McCarthy,
1998). Moreover, the likelihood of victimization among homeless mentally
ill persons is increased because of the risks of victimization associated with
alcohol use more generally (Felson and Burchfield, 2004). For all of these
reasons, cities with higher inpatient psychiatric capacity—with fewer
homeless mentally ill persons on the streets—can be predicted to have
lower crime and arrest rates.
The consequences of limited long-term care facilities are compounded
by the fact that many mentally ill and homeless persons reside,
temporarily, in group homes, shelters, or single-room occupancy hotels in
more “socially disorganized” urban areas, where there are more
economically disadvantaged persons, greater racial diversity, and more
fragmented families. Social disorganization theory predicts that such
structural characteristics lead to weakened social cohesion, thereby
lessening the ability of communities to exert informal control over the
behavior of their residents, resulting in increased crime (Bursik and
Grasmick, 1993; Sampson and Groves, 1989; Sampson, Raudenbusch, and
Earls, 1997). For persons with mental illness, living in such neighborhoods
increases the risk of criminal offending beyond individual characteristics
(Silver, 2000a, 2000b; Silver, Mulvey, and Monahan, 1999).
A key yet underexamined implication of the above research is that the
capacity of mental health care systems to manage the behavior of persons
with severe mental and addictive disorders—who are at increased risk of
criminal offending—may be related to crime and arrest rates across
macro-social units. I depart from the focus on individual variation in
criminal or violent behavior as a result of mental illness. Instead, this
analysis is concerned with the question of social control, conceptualizing
hospital capacity and crime rates as social facts, asking whether cities with
greater hospital capacity have lower crime and arrest rates. I examine both
crime and arrest rates because arrest rates reflect political pressures and
police activity in addition to levels of crime (O’Brien, 1996). Arrest rates
may be sensitive to policing policies designed to reduce urban disorder,
including the visibly homeless and mentally ill. I also examine the
mediating role of homelessness in the relationship between psychiatric
hospital capacity and crime and arrest rates. I predict that cities with
greater hospital capacity will have lower levels of homelessness.
Homelessness, in turn, is expected to be related to increased levels of
crime and arrest.
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Questions regarding the macro-level relationships between psychiatric
hospital capacity, homelessness, and crime/arrest rates raise important
issues regarding the appropriate level of analysis. Most public psychiatric
hospitals are state-controlled, thus the policy decisions determining the
funding, staffing, and capacity of these institutions takes place at the state
level. However, crime and control of crime are generally considered local
phenomenon. I therefore employ a strategy that apportions psychiatric
hospital capacity to the city level using geographic information regarding
catchment-area coverage.
The study is based on a sample of eighty-one U.S. cities with
populations more than 50,000 where city-level estimates of homelessness
from a variety of sources are available that yield a sufficient number of
cities for analysis. These cities represent a sample of mid-size to large
urban areas where the processes of interest largely take place, and for
which complete demographic, psychiatric hospital, and homelessness data
are available. Because of some missing data, the sample size drops slightly
in the estimated equations. The sample contains about 60 percent of U.S.
cities with populations greater than 100,000 and about 80 percent of the
fifty largest cities. The sample is well-distributed geographically, with
about 23 percent of cities located in the East, 25 percent in the Midwest,
21 percent in the West, and 31 percent in the South. The data examined
are from 1989 to 1990. Thus, the period represented is one where the
decline in hospital capacity was leveling off from the sharp declines from
the 1960s to the 1980s, when crime rates were still comparatively high,
before the crime drop of the mid-1990s. Further, in the early 1990s, the
public mental health care system was just crossing a threshold where the
majority of expenditures previously directed towards state hospital
inpatient care were now directed towards community-based services
(Lutterman and Hogan, 2000).
Psychiatric Hospital Capacity. The city-level measure of psychiatric
hospital capacity comes from the annual Guide to the Healthcare Field
(American Hospital Association, 1990). These data include the number of
beds, admissions, patient census, personnel, average length of stay, source
of funding, and expenditures for all hospitals in the United States and
include community mental health centers with inpatient units. The level of
error is likely low because the data are obtained from reports using a
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standardized instrument, with clearly identifiable variables that are closely
monitored by hospital administrations. Capacity data were recorded for
both private and public (state and county) psychiatric hospitals,
aggregated to the city level, and expressed in terms of population
proportions (number of beds per 100,000 residents). Most public
psychiatric hospitals serve catchment areas—sets of counties including the
ones in which they are located. The data for such hospitals are
apportioned using the ratio of city to catchment-area population. For
example, if a city makes up 75 percent of the catchment area population,
75 percent of the beds in a hospital serving that catchment area are
assigned to the city. Catchment area information was obtained from either
the hospitals or the states’ mental health departments. A similar
procedure was used for cities served by hospitals outside the city.
Because local general hospitals are currently an important component
of emergency and inpatient treatment, especially in light of Medicaid
reimbursement, I also consider the effects of city population-
proportionate number of psychiatric beds in general hospitals (per
100,000) that are reported at the state level and compiled by the Center
for Mental Health Services and NIMH.
Given the period under study, during which the number of psychiatric
beds in hospitals had reached comparatively lower levels from previous
eras and the length of stay had became shorter (from several months to
several days), the meaning of additional beds has gone from the ability to
incapacitate a larger number of patients for longer periods of time to the
ability to incapacitate fewer patients at any given time, and for shorter
periods when they are. Census rates generally indicate that the available
beds are filled (to 90 percent capacity or above). Whether patients are
admitted for short- or long-term stays, capacity measures indicate the
degree to which psychiatric hospital systems in a given city are able to
manage a volume of persons whose behavior may be disruptive or
perceived as threatening.
Crime and Arrest Rates. Crime and arrest rates come from the FBI
Uniform Crime Reports (UCR). I focus on the Part I index offenses that
include violent (homicide, assault, rape, and robbery) and property
(burglary, theft, and motor vehicle theft) crimes.3 There are, of course,
3. I considered including Part II data that report only arrests for more public order
types of crimes, such as public drunkenness, disorderly conduct, and vagrancy.
However, Part II data are not often used in research since they contain a high
degree of unreliability due to non-reporting and inconsistent enforcement.
Estimates in many cities fluctuate greatly from year to year. Also, while many of
the offenses the mentally ill are charged with are minor, this does not preclude a
focus on serious crimes. According to nationwide studies, about 16 percent of state
prisoners and jail inmates have a mental illness. Among those mentally ill inmates,
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well-known limitations associated with UCR data, especially the
underestimation of the “true” amount of crime (O’Brien, 1985). However,
because the focus of the study is on the covariance of crime with
psychiatric hospital capacity, underestimating crime should not seriously
bias parameter estimates. Despite the limitations of the UCR data, given
the unavailability of city-level victimization statistics, UCR provide the
best available data for the present purposes.
Homelessness. Because there are well-known difficulties associated with
measures of homelessness (Shlay and Rossi, 1992), I use three city-level
measures from two sources. I use the U.S. Census Bureau’s 1990
enumeration of persons visible in street locations and residing in shelters
(per 100,000 persons). I also use Burt’s 1989 homeless rate (number of
shelter beds per 10,000), based on survey data from city administrators of
the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Comprehensive
Homeless Assistance Plan (Burt, 1992). In the analysis, I combine the
three correlated measures into a weighted factor score derived from
principal components analysis.4
Structural Variables. Throughout the analysis, I control for the
following demographic structural variables associated with crime, the
prevalence of mental illness, and homelessness: percent nonwhite,
economic disadvantage (a factor score derived from principal components
analysis of percent unemployed and percent of families in poverty),
divorce rate, percentage age 15 to 34, and city population (Brenner, 1973;
53 percent of state prisoners, compared to 46 percent of other state prisoners, were
incarcerated for a violent crime (approximately 13 percent of the mentally ill in
state prison had committed murder; 12 percent committed sexual assault; 13
percent robbery; and 11 percent assault). Among inmates in federal prison, 33
percent of the mentally ill were incarcerated for a violent offense, compared to 13
percent of other federal inmates. More than 20 percent of mentally ill federal
prisoners had committed robbery. Among inmates in local jails, 30 percent of the
mentally ill had committed a violent offense, compared to 26 percent of other jail
inmates. An estimated 28 percent of mentally ill probationers and 18 percent of
other probationers reported their current offense was a violent crime. While it is
unfortunate that data on minor offenses lacks the validity and reliability necessary
to perform the same statistical analysis as that involving the index offenses, cities
having high levels of Part II crimes are also likely to have high levels of more
serious crime (Skogan, 1990).
4. The availability of shelter beds is likely to reflect the demand for such beds and is an
indicator of the relative degree of homelessness across different cities. These
estimates are conservative, or underestimate the true extent of homelessness
(Stevens, 1991). Because the primary interest is on the covariance of homelessness
with psychiatric hospital capacity and crime and arrest, underestimation should not
seriously bias parameter estimates. Despite limitations, these indicators of
homelessness are the best available for enough cities, permitting the analysis. The
factor loadings for visible street persons, persons in shelters, and the homeless rate
are .90, .80, and .56 respectively (eigenvalue = 68.36).
4 MARKOWITZ.DOC 1/27/2006 4:06:33 AM
Catalano and Dooley, 1977, 1983; Elliot and Krivo, 1991; Fenwick and
Tausig, 1994; Land, McCall, and Cohen, 1990; Sampson, 1987; Shlay and
Rossi, 1992; Steffensmeier and Harer, 1999).5 All of these measures come
from published U.S. Census Bureau figures.
First, I compare the hospital capacity of the city sample to estimates for
the nation. I then examine the correlations between hospital capacity and
crime and arrest rates. The correlations are examined separately for public
hospitals, private hospitals, and psychiatric beds in general hospitals,
because public hospitals treat a disproportionate amount of disadvantaged
patients with more severe disorders. For example, according to recent
data, 56 percent of blacks and Hispanics in inpatient psychiatric treatment
are in state and county facilities, compared to 47 percent of whites
(Milazzo et al., 2001). Of those treated in private psychiatric hospitals,
over 85 percent are white, are admitted voluntarily (86 percent), and have
private insurance (68 percent) (Koslowe et al., 1991). Moreover, 64
percent of inpatients in public hospitals have a principal diagnosis of
schizophrenia, compared to only 19 percent of patients in private hospitals
(Koslowe et al., 1991). The correlations are also examined separately for
violent and property offenses in order to see whether the relationships
between hospital capacity and crime and arrest rates differ depending on
type of crimes considered. I then estimate a series of models for the
relationships between psychiatric hospital capacity, homelessness, and
crime and arrest rates, controlling for economic disadvantage, percentage
age 15 to 35, percent nonwhite, divorce rate, and population size.
First, I compare the national level of psychiatric hospital capacity and
crime rates to the urban sample. This is important because first, in terms
of generalizability, I want to know how closely data from the urban sample
reflects national estimates, and, second, I am concerned that the
procedure for apportioning state and county hospital capacity to cities
does not bias the data and model estimates. Table 1 shows the hospital
5. Substitution of percentage black for percentage nonwhite yielded similar results.
The loadings for the indicators of economic disadvantage (poverty, unemployment)
are both .89 (eigenvalue = 78.66).
4 MARKOWITZ.DOC 1/27/2006 4:06:33 AM
capacity and crime rates (per 100,000) for both the nation and the urban
sample. The level of city hospital capacity is very close to the national rate.
As might be expected, crime rates are higher for the urban sample.
Table 1. Public Psychiatric Hospital Capacity and Crime Rates, 1990
Hospital Capacity Index Crimes
National Estimates City Sample National Estimates City Sample
40 38 5820 9700
Note: Hospital capacity is the number of beds per 100,000. Index crimes include
murder, robbery, assault, rape, burglary, larceny/theft, and auto theft (total per
Next, I examine the bivariate correlations between psychiatric hospital
capacity and crime and arrest rates for both public and private hospitals,
for violent, property, and both types of crime combined. In Table 2,
correlations are shown for public hospitals. Consistent with the
hypothesized relationships, the correlations of public hospital capacity
with both crime and arrest rates are negative. For violent crimes, the
correlation between hospital capacity and crime rate is very similar to the
correlations involving arrest rates. For property crime however, the
correlation between hospital capacity and crime rates are lower than the
correlations involving arrest rates. As a result, the correlation between
hospital capacity and total crime rate is slightly lower than correlation
involving total arrest rates. In the regression analysis, I present results for
violent and property crimes combined, but do so for crime and arrest rates
Table 2. Correlations Between Psychiatric Hospital Capacity and Crime
and Arrest Rates
Violent Property Total
Crime Arrest Crime Arrest Crime Arrest
Public Psychiatric -.143* -.145* -.115 -.092 -.145* -.142*
Private Psychiatric -.049 .057 .249** .338* .184* .267**
General Hospitals -.073 - .042 -.139# .005 -.082 .063
* p < .05 ** p < .01 #p < .10
Note: Violent crimes include murder, robbery, assault, and rape (rates per
100,000). Property crimes include burglary, larceny/theft, and auto theft. Hospital
capacity is measured as number of beds per 100,000.
4 MARKOWITZ.DOC 1/27/2006 4:06:33 AM
Turning to the bivariate correlations between private psychiatric
hospital capacity and crime and arrest rates (shown in Table 2), a pattern
of relationships emerges that is generally opposite from that of public
psychiatric hospitals. The correlations are mostly positive, indicating that
private hospitals, more likely to serve those with private insurance, less
severe disorders, and for shorter inpatient stays (Mechanic, 1999), may not
provide the same crime-reducing function as public hospitals. Although
seemingly anomalous, the positive correlation between private hospital
capacity and crime and arrest rates is consistent with research indicating
that where cities have more private hospitals and beds, police may be
more likely to arrest mentally ill offenders. This is due to the well-
documented organizational reluctance among private hospitals to admit
patients who are uninsured, are covered by Medicaid, or have more severe
mental illnesses (Schlesinger and Gray, 1999). The correlations between
psychiatric beds in general hospitals and crime (see Table 2), show that,
with the exception of a small negative correlation with property crimes,
there is very little bivariate relationship of crime and arrest rates with
general hospital psychiatric beds. The mostly private general hospitals
with psychiatric bed allocation may operate in a manner similar to private
psychiatric hospitals, in terms of providing only short-term care, thus
having a limited crime-reducing effect. Therefore, in the regression
analysis, I focus mainly on public psychiatric hospitals, but comment on
the sensitivity of the effects of public psychiatric beds when private and
general hospital beds are included in the equations.
Table 3 presents the results of a series of OLS regression models for the
relationships between public hospital capacity, homelessness, and crime
and arrest rates. Equation 1 shows the effects of hospital capacity and
structural variables on homelessness, followed by equations 2 through 5
estimating the effects of hospital capacity and homelessness on crime and
arrest rates. First, the results from equation 1 show that hospital capacity
has a statistically significant negative effect on homelessness (beta = -.15).
The effects of several structural variables are in the expected direction.
Percentage nonwhite and economic disadvantage are associated with
increased homelessness. As might be anticipated, homelessness is also
more prevalent in larger cities. Hospital capacity and the structural
variables account for about 12 percent of the variation in homelessness.
The hospital capacity effect on the crime rate (equation 2) is generally
similar to the bivariate correlation. The effect is negative and statistically
significant, with a standardized coefficient (beta) of -.13. The effects of the
structural variables are in the expected direction. Percentage nonwhite,
4 MARKOWITZ.DOC 1/27/2006 4:06:33 AM
economic disadvantage, percentage age 15 to 34, and divorce are
associated with increased crime rates.
Table 3. Regression Models Relationships 1990
Homelessness Crime Rate Arrest Rate
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
Variables b Beta b Beta b Beta b Beta b Beta
capacity -.01* -.15 -6.90* -.13 -4.17 -.08 -2.37* -.17 -2.01#-.14
Nonwhite .02** .31 47.84** .27 28.40*.16 5.30* .13 8.47*.24
disadvantage .17** .17 730.89*** .23 674.23*.29 36.97 .05 34.74 .05
Divorce .04 .05 240.72* .16 266.38#.17 15.18 .15 18.22 .15
Age 15 to 34 .01 .02 83.77* .12 89.54#.13 37.58* .15 36.34*.12
(1,000s) .01# .15 .01 .04 .01 .01 .04 .05 .01 .04
Homelessness — —
134.95** .34 — 62.50*.12
R2(n) .12(80) .20(79)
.31(79) .10(75) .12(75)
#p < .10 *p < .05 **p < .01 ***p < .001
Note: b = unstandardized regression coefficients; Beta = standardized regression coefficients
When homelessness is introduced into the model (equation 3) the
results indicate that it has a statistically significant effect on crime rates
(beta = .34). Consequently, the hospital capacity effect is reduced by about
40 percent and is no longer significant. Together, hospital capacity and
structural variables account for about 31 percent of the variation in crime
rate. When the models are estimated separately for violent and property
crime rates, the results (not shown) indicate a slightly stronger effect of
homelessness on violent crime compared to property crime. However,
using a covariance structure model with maximum likelihood estimation
with violent and property crime rates specified as endogenous, controlling
for the other variables, I constrained the unstandardized effects of
homelessness to be equal across the two equations and tested for model fit
using the nested chi-sure test (Bollen, 1989). The results indicate no
significant difference in the effect of homelessness across the two
equations (chi-square, 1 d.f. = 2.72, p = .10).
Equations 4 and 5 in Table 3 present the results of regression models
for the effects of hospital capacity and the control variables on arrest rates.
In equation 4, excluding homelessness, the hospital capacity effect is
similar to the bivariate correlation (beta = -.17). The coefficients for the
other structural variables are in the expected direction. Comparing the
effect of hospital capacity on crime and arrest rates (equations 2 and 4),
4 MARKOWITZ.DOC 1/27/2006 4:06:33 AM
the effect on crime rates is slightly greater (chi -square, 1 d.f. = 9.70, p =
When homelessness is added to the arrest rate model (equation 5), the
effect of hospital capacity is reduced (by about 15 percent), yet is still close
to conventional levels of statistical significance. Together, hospital
capacity and structural variables account for about 12 percent of the
variation in arrest rate. When arrest rates are examined separately by
types of crimes (not shown), homelessness is found to have a statistically
significant and substantial effect on arrests for violent crime (beta = .19),
but only a small and nonsignificant effect on arrests for property crime
(beta = .08). Again using a covariance structure model with equality
constraints on the unstandardized homelessness effect across equations,
the difference this time is found to be statistically significant (chi-square, 1
d.f. = 9.82, p = .002). This might be expected given that property crimes
are far less likely to be reported, let alone result in arrest.
To determine whether these results are affected by controlling for
private and general psychiatric hospital capacity, I reestimated the series
of equations including these variables. When the private psychiatric
hospital capacity is added, it is found to have no statistically significant
effects on any of the dependent variables. The effects of public hospital
capacity do increase slightly, but remain substantively unchanged.
Moreover, to test for the possibility that the effects of public hospital
capacity may be conditioned by private and general hospital capacity,
product terms were formed between public capacity and each of these
variables and added to the equations. Using nested F-tests, none of these
effects were found to be significant.
In this study, I first tested the hypothesis that public psychiatric hospital
capacity is inversely related to crime and arrest rates at the city level. The
results are consistent with that hypothesis and with surveys of jail and
prison inmates that find mentally ill offenders are overrepresented among
those incarcerated, especially for violent crimes, which have a greater
likelihood of resulting in arrest compared to property or drug offenses
(Ditton, 1999). The findings are also consistent with arguments that when
social control agents must deal with individuals whose behavior may be
disturbing or troublesome, in the absence of hospitalization in public
psychiatric institutions as an option, arrests may be more frequent,
accounting for much of the “transinstitutionalization” that occurs (Adler,
1986; Belcher, 1988; Finn and Sullivan, 1988).
The public hospital capacity effect may be sensitive to outpatient
services, which can affect patients’ ability to successfully integrate into
4 MARKOWITZ.DOC 1/27/2006 4:06:33 AM
communities. If it is, I cannot be confident that the effect has been
isolated. Unfortunately, standard measures of other mental health-related
social service provision are not available in the same way that hospital
data is. This is due in large part to variation from city to city in terms of
public versus private operation, funding streams, profit versus nonprofit
status, scope of services (for example, clinics, day treatment, psychiatric
rehabilitation, case management), period in operation, and effectiveness.
Perhaps because of this fragmentation, these services do not provide the
degree of social control that public psychiatric hospitals do. Nevertheless, I
addressed the issue by examining the effects of total and community-based
per capita state mental health expenditures. Total expenditures reflect the
amount spent on all of the cited services and personnel, including both
inpatient and outpatient services. Community expenditures include
programs and activities provided in community settings, including mental
health centers, outpatient clinics, partial care organizations, assertive
community treatment and support programs, consumer-run programs
(such as club houses and drop-in centers), and services provided by state
hospitals off hospital grounds. Available data permitted analyses to be
conducted for total community expenditures, and residential and
nonresidential service expenditures separately.
I found that though city-apportioned total mental health expenditures
are significantly correlated with hospital capacity (because, on average,
hospitals account for about half of state mental health budgets), total
expenditures are not correlated with crime or arrest rates. As a result, they
do not alter the estimated effects of hospital capacity on crime and arrest
rates. Further, although total, residential, and nonresidential community-
based expenditures are positively associated with homelessness (perhaps
reflecting demand for services), they are unrelated to crime or arrest rates.
When they are included in the models, the effects of public hospital
capacity on homelessness, crime, and arrest rates are not substantively
altered. This is consistent with limited research showing that communities
with greater mental health services do not show any lower prevalence of
mentally ill persons in jail than communities with low levels of mental
health services (Fisher, 2003). Together, these findings suggest that
community-based services for mental illness may not have that great of an
impact on the number of persons arrested or in jail. It should be
acknowledged that expenditures for community-based services alone
might not provide the best indicator of their social control impact. How
wisely money is spent and the effectiveness of services provided are
difficult to assess. For example, some programs may be low-cost and
highly effective and others expensive, wasteful, and ineffective. Other
factors such as the staff to client ratio, staff turnover, and compliance may
be useful but are simply unavailable at the city level. It is likely that
4 MARKOWITZ.DOC 1/27/2006 4:06:33 AM
community services simply do not provide the level of social control that
public hospitals do.
Examining the relationships between psychiatric hospital capacity,
homelessness, and crime and arrests, the results indicate a moderate link
between public hospital capacity and homelessness at the city level that is
not conditioned by private psychiatric beds, general hospital psychiatric
beds or community-based expenditures. Although data on the proportion
of mental illness among persons who are arrested and are homeless is not
available for a city (or state) level analysis, the findings indicate that
increased hospital capacity is associated with overall lower levels of
homelessness, and increased homelessness is in turn associated with higher
levels of crime and arrests for violent crime. The results indicated that part
of the public hospital capacity effect on crime and arrest rates operates
through its effect on homelessness.
Because data on homelessness in a large number of cities is only
available for 1989 to 1990, I was unable to examine these relationships for
other years. It would be useful to be able to examine the relationships
between hospital capacity, homelessness and crime over periods in which
hospital capacity was high and stable while crime rates were low (early
1960s), as well as periods in which hospital capacity declined as crime rates
increased (1970s and 1980s). The results however, are consistent with
individual-level research showing that an important pathway by which
those who might otherwise receive longer-term inpatient psychiatric care
end up committing crime is lack of housing (McGuire and Rosenbeck,
2004). This is due to the “criminogenic” situation that homelessness and
mental illness fosters (McCarthy and Hagan, 1991). In the absence of
inpatient capacity, more disturbing behavior becomes public, pressure
increases on the police to “clean up” such behavior, and opportunities for
criminal victimization increase.
I also estimated the equations including a variable capturing the ratio of
private to public and general psychiatric hospital beds. The results
indicated that, net of other factors in the equations, the predomination of
private beds in cities is associated with statistically significant increases in
crime (beta = .173) and arrest rates (beta = .359). This is consistent with
the possibility that in cities where private hospital beds constitute a larger
share of inpatient capacity, police have less access to facilities to readily
take problematic persons and may be more likely to resort to arrest.
However, police in such locales might be more inclined toward arrest
The study complements our knowledge of the mental disorder and
violence-crime association from individual-level research with a macro-
level assessment of the relationship between the capacity for control of
persons with psychiatric illness and crime and arrest rates. This
4 MARKOWITZ.DOC 1/27/2006 4:06:33 AM
relationship has several important implications for public policy related to
community safety and the treatment of the mentally ill. Although some
have raised the issue of a moratorium on deinstitutionalization (Lamb,
1992b), the results inform policy decisions regarding the impact of further
reductions of psychiatric hospital capacity. The study suggests that modest
increases in crime may be expected for given reductions in inpatient
hospital capacity. This is especially important now that many states have
implemented managed mental health care plans involving strict limitations
on inpatient service expenditures (Mechanic, 1999). The exact effect of
reduced hospital capacity on crime rates in any given city is difficult to
predict, however, because this effect may depend on the availability and
quality of a variety of fragmented community-based treatment and
housing services that expenditure data alone may not fully capture.
Local jails often serve as conduits through which many mentally ill
offenders pass before being transferred to psychiatric hospitals (Liska et
al., 1999). Further reductions in psychiatric hospital capacity therefore
increase the burden on law enforcement and corrections agencies. In
fact, most jails in major metropolitan areas now provide some sort of
mental health services. It is estimated that, nationally, corrections
departments assume about one-third of the costs of mental health
services provided in jails (Goldstrom et al., 1998). There have been
increased efforts to provide services within correctional settings as well
as support for community treatment alternatives, such as intensive case
management, jail diversion programs, and mental health courts for
mentally ill persons at risk of offending (Steadman, 1999; Dvoskin, 1994;
Morris et al., 1997; Steadman et al., 1995; Watson et al. 2001). In general,
the evidence regarding the effectiveness of these often uncoordinated
programs is somewhat limited (for a comprehensive review, see Fisher,
2003). In light of the findings of the present study, these types of
programs may be insufficient to take the place of public institutions
focusing specifically on the inpatient care needs of persons with serious
mental illness and substance abuse disorders.
In sum, public psychiatric hospital capacity is an important source of
control of those whose behavior or public presence may at times threaten
the social order. Although controversial issues in mental health care such
as easing standards for involuntary treatment, court-ordered medication
compliance, and expanding custodial care continue to be debated (Lamb,
1992b; Mechanic, 1999; Miller, 1993; Torrey, 1997), the study suggests that
reductions in public hospital capacity must be weighed against public
safety concerns, tolerance, and the willingness to provide high-quality
alternative community mental health and housing services.
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Fred E. Markowitz is associate professor in the Department of
Sociology at Northern Illinois University and a member of the NIMH
Chicago Consortium for Stigma Research. His research interests include
stigma and mental illness, social control, and college campus crime. His
recent publications have appeared in Schizophrenia Bulletin, Mental
Health Services Research, and Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
... There is also a disproportionate number of individuals with mental illness in the criminal justice system (Markowitz, 2006). Studies have found suspects with a mental illness are more likely to be arrested than those without (H. ...
... Having a mental illness has been associated with lower functional status and greater disability (Mauksch et al., 2001). In the face of limited clinical options, police who encounter disruptive behavior resulting from mental illness often resort to arrests as a means to get suspects into mental health treatment and maintain their authority in conflict situations (Markowitz, 2006). ...
... Being homeless has also been associated with a greater number of arrests (Gelberg, Linn, & Leake, 1988;H. R. Lamb & Weinberger, 1998;Leal, Galanter, Dermatis, & Westreich, 1999;Markowitz, 2006;Roy, Crocker, Nicholls, Latimer, & Ayllon, 2014;Wenzel et al., 1996). ...
There is growing evidence that diversion to a mental health court program (MHC) can reduce recidivism rates and improve the quality of life of clients. However, there is less known about MHC client characteristics and factors associated with recidivism. Yet, this information would be useful to increase the effectiveness of these programs. Cross-sectional quantitative data were collected on MHC clients in three consecutive years. Of the 155 program clients that were successfully interviewed, only 154 were included in the analysis due to one non-consent to collect further data from their case manager. The purpose of this secondary analysis was to examine "What individual factors are associated with recidivism among MHC program clients?" This analysis specifically explored the association of sex, age, low functional ability, homelessness, court site, and criminal history. From the multiple logistic regression results, the increased risk of recidivism was found to be significantly associated with younger clients and a prior criminal history. The results of this study suggest programs tailored to young adults and repeat offenders may be areas that MHCs could potentially focus on to increase their effectiveness.
... Moving forward, it is also important for the reader to acknowledge why there has been a significant increase in the mentally ill population within both communities and the justice system. Starting in the 1960s, the deinstitutionalization of psychiatric facilities reduced the number of beds from approximately 563,000 to only 98,800 (Markowitz, 2006). This led to the discharging of thousands of severe long-term mentally ill patients, removing them from proper supervision, medication, and treatment. ...
... These individuals, unfortunately, lack the proper support and resources they need to properly re-integrate in to society. This often prevented them from obtaining a permanent residency, thus, endangering them to the life of homelessness (Markowitz, 2006). ...
... When the factor of homelessness is incorporated and if they regularly reside in a specific area or city, that individual could be identified as a constant problem. This continuous identification could, unfortunately, increase the likelihood of encounters with police officers (Markowitz, 2006). In a variety of studies, it is understood that police officers develop frustration over having to consistently deal with the same person and began to institute and utilized the concept of dumping. ...
... The widespread closure of U.S. psychiatric hospitals and general hospital psychiatric units over a period of decades without a reliable community care system to replace them has been recognized as a public policy failure contributing to lack of treatment and poor outcomes for adults with disabling psychiatric conditions. [1][2][3] In recent years, some observers have implicated this larger problem in preventable incidents of gun violence and suicide. [4][5][6] Deinstitutionalization and a tightening of civil commitment statutes across the country brought a steep decline in use of involuntary civil commitment, which had served not only as a legal means to confine persons with incapacitating mental illness who required inpatient-level treatment to mitigate dangerousness, but also as a mechanism for firearm disqualification applied to such individuals. ...
... 5 Beyond anecdotal evidence, an emerging research literature has examined the direct and indirect impact of the psychiatric bed shortage on a variety of poor outcomes, including homelessness, crime, incarceration, and emergency room boarding of acutely ill psychiatric patients. [1][2][3]6 A longitudinal study of 23,292 previously hospitalized, public-sector patients with a diagnosis of serious mental illness in Connecticut reported that 96 percent of violent crimes in the study population were perpetrated by individuals who had never been involuntarily committed to a hospital, a group ostensibly receiving less inpatient treatment and who did not lose their gun rights through the mental health prohibitor. 24 A nationally representative psychiatric epidemiological study described a group of adults with impulsive anger problems and access to firearms, comprising an estimated 8.9 percent of the adult population of the United States. ...
Full-text available
This article presents a survival analysis of long-term risk of firearm-related and other violent crime in a large sample of adults with serious mental illness in Florida, comparing those who received a gun-disqualifying civil commitment after a short-term hold, those who were evaluated for commitment but were released or hospitalized voluntarily, and a third group with no holds or commitments. Among 77,048 adults with a diagnosis of schizophrenia-spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, or major depression, 42.7 percent were detained for psychiatric examination under Florida's Baker Act; of that detained group, 8.4 percent were involuntarily committed while the remainder were released within 72 hours or agreed to voluntary admission. Over a follow-up period averaging six to seven years, 7.5 percent of the sample were arrested for a violent offense not involving a gun, and 0.9 percent were arrested for a violent crime involving a gun. A short-term hold with or without commitment was associated with a significantly higher risk of future arrest for violent crime, although the study population had other violence risk factors unrelated to mental illness. Risk of gun-involved crime, specifically, was significantly higher in individuals following a short-term hold only, but not in those who were involuntarily committed and became ineligible to purchase or possess guns. Policy implications are discussed.
... Research has shown that individuals with mental disorders are more likely to be detained/arrested (Charette, Crocker, Billette, 2014;Steury, 1991;Teplin, 1984; and detained for longer periods of time (Steury, 1991) than their nondisordered counterparts. Some scholars postulate that this increased contact is a result of police officers using "mercy bookings" in an effort to facilitate access to mental health treatment available through the criminal justice system that may be otherwise unattainable through limited community-based services (Lamb, Weinberger, & DeCuir, 2002;Markowitz, 2006;. However, others have argued that mental disorder symptoms have been "criminalized", and the disproportionate police contact is a result of negative attitudes and stigma towards those with mental illness (Watson, Ottati, Lurigio, & Heyrman, 2005). ...
... As well, there has been some research that has observed an increase in crime and crime arrest rates with the decline in public psychiatric capacity (Markowitz, 2006;Yoon, 2011). Yoon (2011), for example, assessed the impact that increases in the privatization of inpatient psychiatric care had on the size of the jail inmate population across the United Sates between 1985 and 1998. ...
Full-text available
Persons with mental disorders face widespread challenges in their lives, including disproportionate involvement in the criminal justice system. As there has been ongoing scholarly debate regarding relevant criminal risk factors for offenders with mental disorders, better understanding their experiences with the criminal justice system is essential to ensure they are being managed appropriately. The goal of the current doctoral research was to validate the Dynamic Risk Assessment for Offender Re-entry (DRAOR) for use with offenders with a mental disorder. A sample of 961 parolees in the state of Iowa (49.7% being diagnosed with a mental disorder) was used to achieve this goal. Findings showed that, while offenders with a mental disorder were assessed as having higher dynamic risk and lower protective factors, they were equally likely to recidivate compared to those with no mental disorder. While the DRAOR had utility with offenders who were not diagnosed with a mental disorder, results were less positive for those with a diagnosis. Discrimination analyses found that the DRAOR was only able to weakly discriminate between those who did or did not violate the conditions of their release, while calibration analyses found that the DRAOR may be under-classifying lower-scoring offenders with a mental disorder and over-classifying higher-scoring offenders with a mental disorder. The consideration of current mental health-related problems augmented the prediction of technical violations over DRAOR assessments for offenders with mental disorder, pointing to the possibility that there may be other factors relevant to risk prediction for this sub-population. Analyses focused on assessments over time found that, regardless of the presence of a mental disorder, offenders’ levels of dynamic risk, but not protective factors, changed over multiple assessments. Subsequent analysis found that while DRAOR change scores significantly predicted future technical violations, they did not predict new charges. Overall, these findings point to the need for parole officers to exercise caution with using the DRAOR with clients who have a diagnosed mental disorder. Further research is needed to better understand the underlying reasons why the DRAOR does not work as well with offenders with mental disorders compared to those without mental disorders.
... Over the last six decades, as psychiatric hospital bed availability and access have decreased, homelessness has increased, and so have crimes and arrests associated with homelessness (Markovitz, 2006). 43 It has been estimated that about one-third of the homeless population has a SMI, 74-87% of homeless people are prone to be victimized (Treatment Advocacy Center, 2016), and 63-90% of homeless individuals have a lifetime risk of being arrested (Roy, 2014). ...
Criminal trespassing (CT) is an understudied misdemeanor offense often enforced to maintain control over contested spaces and, in practice, often disproportionately used against disenfranchised populations such as the homeless and mentally ill. This study uses the CT case files of a county criminal district attorney’s office to investigate how cases involving defendants experiencing homelessness are handled compared with other defendants. Results show that homeless defendants make up a substantial portion of all CT cases, are more likely to be repeat CT defendants, and account for most jail sentences. Whereas defendants with mental health issues were often deferred for services, this avenue was not similarly extended to homeless defendants. Qualitative analyses show varied circumstances related to CT arrest for homeless and non-homeless defendants. The findings suggest various policy implications to refocus police resources and promote interagency cooperation to address the underlying causes of CT involvement by people experiencing homelessness.
Individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) are at increased risk for arrest and incarceration relative to the same-community population without SMI. Publicly-funded inpatient psychiatric hospitals usually feature short lengths of stay and limited opportunities for extended services that might impact criminal justice involvement after discharge. This study examined the influence of an early intervention program for SMI at a high-volume public psychiatric hospital on involvement in the criminal justice system post-discharge. The Early Onset Treatment Program (EOTP) is an extended service intervention program for uninsured patients who are within 5 years of SMI onset. Criminal justice records (number of arrests with conviction, days of incarceration) were obtained for EOTP participants (n = 164) and comparison patients (n = 164) matched on demographics, diagnosis, and discharge date via propensity score matching. Data were zero-inflated and analyzed using hurdle models, controlling for prior arrests. The EOTP group was less likely to be convicted of at least one crime post-discharge (0 arrests vs. > 0, p < .001), and spent fewer days incarcerated (if incarcerated ≥1 day, p < .03). Participation in the EOTP service was linked to reduced likelihood of post-discharge arrest and days incarcerated. Several alternative variables may contribute to this preliminary observation, including length of stay, medication adherence, longer environmental stability, and individual patient characteristics.
The lack of robust mental health programs throughout the USA has resulted in police frequently being responsible for responding to calls about people with mental illness who are in crisis. Working with people with mental illness as offenders or as individuals needing emergency assistance is a regular part of the job for many in law enforcement, yet specialized training is not a regular part of most academy or in-service training curricula. Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) programs consist of a 40-h training for police and mental health personnel. The programs teach officers about mental illness, its causes and symptoms, and focuses on de-escalation tactics and use of available community resources as alternatives to criminal justice outcomes for calls. The current study explores officers’ feelings of preparedness to work with community members with mental illness and their levels of endorsement of mental health stigma. Researchers surveyed police from nine different local departments in southern New Jersey. Half of the surveyed officers completed CIT training, allowing for comparisons between officers who were trained and those who were not. Results indicate that the CIT-trained officers were more likely to endorse different types of mental health stigma than non-trained officers, but those who were CIT-trained reported feeling better prepared for calls involving people with mental illness.
Most research on police response to mental illness has not included officers who work in college settings. This study examined the frequency with which campus police are asked to respond to mental health crises, their preparedness to do so, and their perceived effectiveness. Additionally, this study gathered information about campus and community partners and examined differences between mental health-focused calls involving students versus community members. Seventy-six campus police departments participated in the study and reported that 10% of calls involve a mental health issue, with wellness checks and suicidality being common student issues and homelessness, violence toward others, and substance abuse being common issues for calls involving community members. Over half of officers have Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, and the number of CIT-trained officers was related to perceived effectiveness at managing student mental health calls. Implications for mental health resources on college campuses and the need for additional research in this area are discussed.
Individuals experiencing both homelessness and mental illness have high rates of interaction with public safety and criminal justice institutions. Several cross-sector diversion programs have been developed over the past decades as alternatives to incarceration. Most of these initiatives rely on the commitment and expertise of frontline practitioners from different sectors and backgrounds. This research examines the perspectives of frontline practitioners regarding practices and policies that target justice involvement of individuals experiencing both homelessness and mental health issues in a Canadian urban context. Findings from focus groups with 55 participants drawn from the police, the community and public health and social services sectors indicate that frontline practitioners value and support close proximity in cross-sector action, while raising ethical and legal issues related to this type of practice. Participants also describe how exclusion from services for this population, lack of involvement from corrections, housing, and forensic mental health services, and ineffective use of involuntary treatment mechanisms shape and constrain frontline practice. The findings of this article give voice to the specific concerns of frontline service providers. Given these findings, we suggest potential strategies to better serve individuals who are identified as “harder to serve” but who might also benefit from diversion from the criminal justice system.
The number of inpatients in US public mental hospitals declined from 559,000 in 1955 to approximately 110,000 at present. Reductions resulted from release or transfer of long-term inpatients and from entrance barriers to new admissions. The timing and pace of deinstitutionalization substantially varied by state, but three quarters of the national reduction followed the expansion of welfare programs in the middle 1960s. The establishment of community care alternatives was highly inadequate, leaving many severely and persistently mentally ill people without essential services. Problems of care were exacerbated by the contraction of welfare programs in the 1980s, which resulted in serious neglect and homelessness. Plagued by underfinancing and fragmentation of care, new strategies in developing mental health care systems include capitation, case-management approaches, and the development of strong local mental health authorities.
The current emphasis on dangerousness as a criterion for both civil and criminal commitments in the USA results from a confluence of political and legal factors which have little to do with the provision of appropriate treatment to mentally disordered persons. These factors have resulted in significant changes in the types of persons involuntarily hospitalised, and the stages of their disorders when interventions are to be permitted. As a result, hospitalised patients are more likely to have personality disorders, to have criminal histories, and to be resistant to treatment than was the case prior to deinstitutionalisation. The rising proportions of such patients consumes scarce resources and complicates treatment for those patients who are potentially responsive to treatment. This situation is unlikely to change as long as society expresses a preference through its laws for short-term protection from harm over the provision of effective treatment.