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  • Publication # 14-RA001

Evidence lacking on effectiveness of interventions for incarcerated adults with serious mental illness

Comparative Effectiveness Research

Treatment with antipsychotics other than clozapine appears to improve psychiatric symptoms more than clozapine in offenders with serious mental illness (SMI) who are incarcerated, concludes a new review of studies from AHRQ's Effective Health Care Program. For all other incarceration-based interventions, including pharmacologic therapies, cognitive therapy, and modified therapeutic community, evidence was insufficient to draw any conclusions. 

Among incarcerated adults, 15 to 25 percent suffer from SMI, which includes schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, or major depression. Two interventions, discharge planning with Medicaid-application assistance and integrated dual disorder treatment programs, appear to be effective interventions compared with standard of care for seriously mentally ill offenders transitioning back to the community. More research is needed to increase the confidence in current low-evidence-strength findings and to address interventions and populations where evidence is lacking. 

These findings can be found in the research review Interventions for Adults with Serious Mental Illness Who Are Involved with the Criminal Justice System at

Page last reviewed October 2013
Internet Citation: Evidence lacking on effectiveness of interventions for incarcerated adults with serious mental illness: Comparative Effectiveness Research. October 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


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