Criminal Justice

PRA’s work in the criminal justice field seeks to improve public safety and public health outcomes for individuals with mental and/or substance use disorders in the justice system. To advance these goals, PRA currently operates SAMHSA’s GAINS Center, which focuses on expanding access to services for people with mental and/or substance use disorders who come into contact with the justice system.

View our criminal justice resources below:

  • The Sequential Intercept Model

    The Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) was developed over several years in the early 2000s by Mark Munetz, MD and Patricia A. Griffin, PhD, along with Henry J. Steadman, PhD, of Policy Research Associates, Inc. The SIM was developed as a conceptual model to inform community-based responses to the involvement of people with mental and substance use disorders in the criminal justice system.

    Since its development, the use of the SIM as a strategic planning tool has grown tremendously. In the 21st Century Cures Act, the 114th Congress of the United States of America identified the SIM, specifically the mapping workshop, as a means for promoting community-based strategies to reduce the justice system involvement of people with mental disorders.(5) SAMHSA has supported community-based strategies to improve public health and public safety outcomes for justice-involved people with mental and substance use disorders through SIM Mapping Workshop national solicitations and by providing SIM workshops as technical assistance to its criminal justice and behavioral health grant programs. In addition, the Bureau of Justice Assistance has supported the SIM Mapping Workshop by including it as a priority for the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program grants.

    View the SIM website and supplementary materials.

  • Brief Jail Mental Health Screen

    The effective quick, simple, and free Brief Jail Mental Health Screen (BJMHS) is a powerful booking tool to screen incoming detainees in jails and detention centers for the need for further mental health assessment.

    Developed by Policy Research Associates, with funding from the National Institute of Justice, the BJMHS was validated in a study that included 10,330 detainees from four jails, two in New York and two in Maryland. The results indicated that the BJMHS would refer about 11 percent of incoming detainees for further mental health assessment. The BJMHS was administered to all participants during the booking process. The BJMHS results were validated by the SCID, a standardized clinical evaluation tool, which was administered to 357 detainees. The SCID evaluation determined whether the BJMHS had correctly identified the detainees who should be referred for further mental health assessment. Seventy-three percent of males and 62 percent of females were correctly identified, making the BJMHS the best available solution to identify the further need for mental health evaluation for incoming detainees. To read further about the study, please read the full article entitled, “Validating the Brief Jail Mental Health Screen,” (PDF 204kb) in the July issue of Psychiatric Services.

    The BJMHS assesses incoming detainees for the possibility of having a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. The process takes less than 3 minutes and is easily incorporated by corrections officers into the booking process. The entire screen consists of only eight yes/no questions.

    Officers who administered it in the validation research felt that the form helped to remind them to look for “flags” in incoming detainees.

    The screen is simple to administer by corrections officers during the booking process. The BJMHS requires little formal training, but included with the screen is a page of instructions and suggestions. The instructions include specific administration instructions, as well as scoring instructions. Please read these instructions before administering, because they will aid in the administration of the screen.


    This screen will only identify the need in incoming detainees for further mental health assessment. This screen will not:

    – Guarantee that the detainee has a mental illness

    – Identify everyone with a need for mental health services

    – Identify the specific mental illness a detainee may have

    Because the screen does not guarantee identification of everyone with a need, the form allows for discretion when making referrals. A detainee may pass the screen, but their behavior may indicate they need further evaluation and therefore should be referred.

    Because the screen is not as accurate in identifying women as it is in identifying men, special attention should be paid to women who exhibit or report behavior that may indicate the need for further mental health referral, regardless of their BJMHS score.

    If you have any questions concerning the screen, please contact SAMHSA’s GAINS Center at: e-mail: email hidden; JavaScript is required or phone: 1 (800) 311-4246.

  • Co-Occurring Disorders

    Screening and Assessment of Co-Occurring Disorders in the Justice System
    (Publication, PDF, 2.51 MB – External Link)

  • Courts and Judges
  • Evidence-Based Practices

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  • Integrating Services
  • Jail Diversion

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  • Peer Resources

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  • Re-Entry
  • Trauma
  • Tribes

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  • Veterans

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  • Women