Research Topic

Mind the Gap! Criminal justice and health transitions for those with severe mental illness

About this Research Topic

Transitions of care e.g., changes in the level, location, or provider are points of vulnerability that can lead to a range of negative outcomes. Transitions for those with severe mental illness and who are in contact with the criminal justice system are especially problematic. The prevalence of psychiatric morbidity among prisoners is higher than in the general population. While there have been advances in prison mental health in trying to provide equitable provision of healthcare, prisons may lack a therapeutic environment, often have rigid protocols and policies and future planning is hampered by the large turnover of prisoners, especially those on remand.

Research tells us that the transition from prison to the community for those with severe mental illness is associated with increased mortality, by both suicide and drug overdose, increased risk of reoffending, poor continuity of health care and treatment pathways and significant distress and anxiety, often associated with decline in mental health intervention. Therefore evidence based strategies to support multi-agency collaboration and continuity of care are needed.

There is a small but growing literature and evidence base of interventions to support the successful transition from prison into the community, but often this research has lacked detailed process evaluations to fully understand the complexity of the issues. In addition, there are other areas that have received little attention such as the transition back to prison from in-patient psychiatric services. There is a real need for innovative and effective interventions for this population, due to the significant negative outcomes experienced.

The goal of this Research Topic is to advance our understanding and knowledge of how to improve transitional periods for those with severe mental illness in contact with the criminal justice system, so that we can reduce negative outcomes and prevent people from falling through the gap. This Research Topic encourages submission of review articles as well as qualitative and quantitative research studies addressing the following questions:

• What do we know about people with severe mental disorders who transition through the criminal justice system? What do we know about their experiences navigating the criminal justice system?

• What do we know about the different transitional periods e.g., prison to community, prison to in-patient psychiatric services and back again, child/adolescent services to adult etc.?

• Are there particular groups who are more vulnerable to ‘falling through the gap’? e.g., those on remand, those with co-morbidity, members of racial and ethnic minority groups, etc. etc.?

• How does context (local, regional, national) affect outcomes following transitional periods?

• Which interventions are effective for supporting transitional periods?

• How and why do these interventions work or not work to support those with severe mental illness?

• What barriers and facilitators exist for implementation of these intervention strategies?

• How can we get health and criminal justice agencies to work more collaboratively and seamlessly?


Keywords: Mind the Gap! Criminal Justice and Health Transitions for those with Severe Mental Illness


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Transitions of care e.g., changes in the level, location, or provider are points of vulnerability that can lead to a range of negative outcomes. Transitions for those with severe mental illness and who are in contact with the criminal justice system are especially problematic. The prevalence of psychiatric morbidity among prisoners is higher than in the general population. While there have been advances in prison mental health in trying to provide equitable provision of healthcare, prisons may lack a therapeutic environment, often have rigid protocols and policies and future planning is hampered by the large turnover of prisoners, especially those on remand.

Research tells us that the transition from prison to the community for those with severe mental illness is associated with increased mortality, by both suicide and drug overdose, increased risk of reoffending, poor continuity of health care and treatment pathways and significant distress and anxiety, often associated with decline in mental health intervention. Therefore evidence based strategies to support multi-agency collaboration and continuity of care are needed.

There is a small but growing literature and evidence base of interventions to support the successful transition from prison into the community, but often this research has lacked detailed process evaluations to fully understand the complexity of the issues. In addition, there are other areas that have received little attention such as the transition back to prison from in-patient psychiatric services. There is a real need for innovative and effective interventions for this population, due to the significant negative outcomes experienced.

The goal of this Research Topic is to advance our understanding and knowledge of how to improve transitional periods for those with severe mental illness in contact with the criminal justice system, so that we can reduce negative outcomes and prevent people from falling through the gap. This Research Topic encourages submission of review articles as well as qualitative and quantitative research studies addressing the following questions:

• What do we know about people with severe mental disorders who transition through the criminal justice system? What do we know about their experiences navigating the criminal justice system?

• What do we know about the different transitional periods e.g., prison to community, prison to in-patient psychiatric services and back again, child/adolescent services to adult etc.?

• Are there particular groups who are more vulnerable to ‘falling through the gap’? e.g., those on remand, those with co-morbidity, members of racial and ethnic minority groups, etc. etc.?

• How does context (local, regional, national) affect outcomes following transitional periods?

• Which interventions are effective for supporting transitional periods?

• How and why do these interventions work or not work to support those with severe mental illness?

• What barriers and facilitators exist for implementation of these intervention strategies?

• How can we get health and criminal justice agencies to work more collaboratively and seamlessly?


Keywords: Mind the Gap! Criminal Justice and Health Transitions for those with Severe Mental Illness


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

08 October 2021 Abstract
31 January 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

08 October 2021 Abstract
31 January 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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