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Screening & Assessment

Screening and assessment are critical once an individual has contact with the justice system in order to ensure the system’s response is tailored to the individual’s criminogenic risks and needs. All individuals coming into jail should be screened for mental health and substance use disorders, criminogenic risk, and trauma using an evidence-based tool validated for the population that is screened. Then, if indicated by the screening instrument, an appropriate assessment should follow.

Learn More About Screening for Substance Abuse Disorders

Substance use disorders are associated with worse criminal justice outcomes and therefore require special and dynamic treatment strategies. Once in custody, valid and reliable screening tools should be used to identify substance use disorders to provide detention partners with an informed picture of treatment and custody needs. These tools are typically less than a dozen items, can be administered by non-clinicians, and are often in the public domain and free. Many screening tools also now implicitly recognize the reality that mental health needs co-occur with substance use disorders. An excellent treatise on why and how to effectively use screening and assessment in a justice context is SAMHSA’s Screening and Assessment of Co-Occurring Disorders in the Justice System.

Examples of brief SUD screens include:

Learn More About Screening for Mental Health Disorders

Using valid and reliable mental health screening instruments both out of custody and at jail intake can identify new treatment needs (or initial treatment needs) pending pre-trial release. Screening and assessment information can also be provided directly to the court to facilitate more appropriate and tailored pre-trial orders, referral to an appropriate treatment court, and in-court responses to individuals. Common mental health screens include:

The two most prevalent correctional or jail-specific mental health screens are:

Criminogenic risk screening (and assessment if indicated by the screen) informs corrections, supervision, treatment, and court components of the system about how to engage with the arrestee/defendant, consistent with the risk need responsivity principle. Common risk and need screens and assessment instruments include:

Trauma is a frequent responsivity factor that should be identified as early in the process as possible. Screening for trauma is important both to identify appropriate treatment interventions and to avoid re-traumatizing the person. Widely validated and used tools include:

Other resources: