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Washington’s Dangerous Mentally Ill Offender Law: Was Community Safety Increased?

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David Lovell, Gregg Gagliardi, Polly Phipps - March 2005

The 1999 Washington State Legislature passed Substitute Senate Bill 5011 to improve the process of identifying and providing additional mental health treatment for mentally ill offenders who are being released from the Department of Corrections (DOC), who pose a threat to public safety, and agree to participate in the program. A “Dangerous Mentally Ill Offender” (DMIO) is identified in the legislation as a person with a mental disorder who has been determined to be dangerous to self or others. The legislation also directs the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (Institute) and the Washington Institute for Mental Illness Research and Training (WIMIRT) to evaluate the Act to determine:

  • Whether criminal recidivism or inpatient hospitalization was reduced;
  • Whether mental health, drug/alcohol, case management, housing assistance, and other services were improved;
  • Whether the risk assessment tool assessing dangerousness was valid; and
  • Whether the state saved money because of early Medicaid enrollment or reduced use of DOC beds.

These outcomes were analyzed by comparing DMIO participants released from prison (DMIO participants) with a similar group of offenders from the Community Transition Study (CTS), who were released in 1996 and 1997. This study covers all offenders admitted to the program during its first two years, and who were followed in the community for 18 months after their release from prison. The DMIO program was designed to serve participants for five years after prison release; this evaluation covers the first 18 months of a 60-month program.

Report ID: 05-03-1901

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