Ms. Louison was invited to the event because of her considerable expertise in working with justice-involved individuals with mental illness. She is the co-founder of the Nathaniel Assertive Community Treatment Team, the first alternative-to-incarceration program in Manhattan Supreme Court for adults with serious mental illness convicted of felony offenses. She is also a consultant to the Council of State Governments Justice Center, providing technical assistance to jurisdictions launching programs for people with serious mental illness involved in the justice system.
The goal of the session was to help probation officers understand the difference between individuals’ mental health needs and risk for reoffending, which require distinct types of interventions. While national estimates indicate that nearly 17 percent of individuals in New York City jails have a serious mental illness (rates in excess of three to six times those found in the general population), mental illness alone does not explain why someone becomes involved in the justice system. Rather, research has identified specific (and modifiable) risk factors that elevate an individual’s risk for recidivism regardless of mental health status, including areas such as having an anti-social personality, type of peer/family relationships, and substance abuse. It is therefore important that justice-involved individuals with mental illness receive treatment and supervision that respond to both their mental illness and risk of recidivism.
Ms. Louison applauds the Department of Probation’s efforts to improve its response to probationers with mental illness, saying, “We at CASES put a high value on the work they are doing to address this issue, and we look forward to continuing to partner with them in the future.”