The Brief Jail Mental Health Screen (BJMHS) is a free tool for jail personnel to screen justice-involved people for further mental health assessment. Fast and easy to complete, the form is effective at helping corrections staff determine the possibility of an individual having a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. It requires little training, as instructions and suggestions for corrections officers administering the screening are included.

The tool consists of eight yes/no questions for the individual, as well as guidelines for the officer on when to refer the justice-involved person for further mental health evaluation. This tool is not a substitute for mental health evaluation by a psychiatric professional but assesses the need for further evaluation. There is no guarantee that the BJMHS will identify every individual in need, so officers are encouraged to use discretion in referring individuals.

PRA developed the BJMHS in 2005 with funding from the National Institute of Justice. In a study of 10,330 detainees from 2 New York jails and 2 Maryland jails, 11 percent of individuals screened with the BJMHS received a referral to mental health evaluation. For further information, read the full article, Validation of the Brief Jail Mental Health Screen, from the July 2005 issue of Psychiatric Services.

Important Reminders

The BHMHS will only assess the need for mental health assessment of individuals. The screening will not:

  • Guarantee that the individual has a mental illness
  • Identify everyone in need of mental health services
  • Identify the specific mental illness(es) an individual may have

If you have any questions concerning the screen, please contact PRA via email ( or phone ([518] 439-7415).

This resource was first shared in 2005.