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Interviewing in correctional settings 

Interviewing in correctional settings
Interviewing in correctional settings

Li-Wen Lee

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date: 26 May 2019

Conducting psychiatric interviews is oftentimes a unique challenge in jails and prisons. Interviews are conducted in a wide array of conditions and settings, acute or chronic, privacy and safety issues, contentious or collaborative. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2005, more than half of all jail and prison inmates had a recent history of symptoms of a mental health problem. This high rate of mental illness is both an opportunity for, and a challenge to, providing much needed treatment. Without adequate assessment and treatment, inmates with mental illness may harm themselves, other inmates, correctional staff, become victimized, or disrupt facility operations. An essential component in assessment and appropriate management is the psychiatric interview. While there are helpful standards and guidelines regarding mental health services in correctional settings, relatively little has been written about the specific impact of the correctional setting on conducting mental health interviews, or on the specific features of the correctional population that should be understood when conducting the mental health interview. Given the importance of the interview in providing mental health treatment, the essential elements and complexities involved in conducting an effective interview in the correctional setting will be presented in the following chapter. Various aspects of the psychiatric interview will be reviewed with particular attention given to how the correctional population and setting can impact the interview process. Issues of countertransference are also present and are discussed. This chapter discusses both the contexts as well as the practices that are appropriately adapted to correctional settings.

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