Criminal Justice Professionals’ Attitudes Toward Mental Illness and Substance Use
Despite the high prevalence of behavioral health disorders in justice settings and prior research on the importance of attitudes in successful treatment outcomes for behavioral health populations, few studies have examined criminal justice professionals’ attitudes toward mental illness and substance use. We conducted a state-wide survey of 610 criminal justice professionals using items adapted from the Drug and Drug Problems Perceptions Questionnaire (Albery et al. 2003) to examine attitudes toward mental illness and substance use as a function of criminal justice position and personal contact. For attitudes toward both mental illness and substance use, defense attorneys and community corrections officers reported more positive attitudes relative to jail correctional staff and prosecutors. For attitudes toward substance use, personal contact moderated the effect of position on attitudes. Findings underscore the importance of targeted training and other contact-based interventions to improve criminal justice professionals’ attitudes toward behavioral health populations.
KeywordsAttitudes Personal contact Criminal justice Mental illness Substance use
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