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Reducing Criminal Recidivism for Justice-Involved Persons with Mental Illness: Risk/Needs/Responsivity and Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions

NCJ Number
Merrill Rotter, M.D.; W. Amory Carr, Ph.D.
Date Published
October 2013
6 pages

This document reviews the leading offender recidivism-targeted intervention paradigm: Risk/Needs/Responsivity (RNR).


The failure of traditional case management and clinical services to fully address criminal justice recidivism in the mentally ill offender population challenges providers to adopt and adapt best practices that may be ultimately more effective in decriminalizing persons with mental illness. These practices include RNR-based recidivism-focused assessment; clinically sensitive mandated community case management, such as probation officers with specialized caseloads and mental health courts; criminal-thinking and behavior-focused structured clinical interventions; and an awareness of how to maximize the likelihood that an offender will take advantage of these interventions. RNR proposes that to address the community behavior of offenders, the intensity of treatment and supervision should match the "Risk" level for re-offense; the treatment provided should match the individual "Needs" most clearly associated with criminality; and the intervention modalities should match those to which the individual is most "Responsive." Of particular focus in this document is criminal thinking, one of the identified "needs," and structured cognitive-behavioral interventions from the worlds of criminal justice and mental health that were created or adapted to specifically target the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with criminal recidivism. References