Criminogenic risk and mental health: A complicated relationship

Robert D. Morgan, Faith Scanlon, Stephanie A. Van Horn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The relationship between criminogenic risk and mental illness in justice involved persons with mental illness is complex and poorly understood by clinicians, researchers, administrators, and policy makers alike. Historically, when providing services to justice involved persons with mental illness, clinicians have emphasized mental health recovery (eg, psychiatric rehabilitation) at the exclusion of treatments targeted at criminogenic risk. More recently, however, researchers have demonstrated with great clarity that criminogenic risk not only contributes but is likely the leading factor in the criminal behavior committed by persons with mental illness. Yet, we still do not know the nature of this criminogenic-mental illness relationship, how this relationship impacts treatment needs, and of ultimate concern, what this relationship means in terms of individual and societal outcomes. In this paper we briefly define criminogenic risk and the research that demonstrates the role of criminogenic risk in criminal justice involvement of persons with mental illness. We also review prevalence rates of persons with mental illness justice involvement, and then discuss important factors to be considered when assessing risk to include both criminogenic and mental illness risk. We conclude this paper by reviewing treatment and management strategies for persons with mental illness that are criminal justice involved particularly reviewing and building off the recommendations put forth by Bartholomew & Morgan.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-244
Number of pages8
JournalCNS Spectrums
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • Mental illness
  • co-occurring
  • criminal justice
  • criminogenic risk
  • recidivism


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