Coupling, Mentally Ill Offender, Mentally Ill, Collaboration, Interprofessional Collaboration, Fragmentation


The federal program of deinstitutionalizing psychiatric facilities has resulted in a well documented, ever-increasing mentally ill population in the nation's prisons and jails. Historically, the criminal justice system has maintained a laissez-faire attitude toward the mentally ill, and only became involved with the mentally ill when a crime had been committed. As such, the President's Mental Health and Criminal Justice Consensus Project was developed to explore ways that the two systems could work together to address the growing problem of the mentally ill offender. However, challenges arise because the criminal justice system has typically been viewed as a loosely coupled, fragmented system that is unwilling or unable to address the social issue of the mentally ill offender. The concept of coupling between agencies has serious ramifications for the ability of agencies to successfully collaborate. Theoretical foundations for collaboration between mental health and criminal justice agencies lie partly in labeling theory and the drive to avoid the negative stigmatization of the mentally ill by the formal criminal justice system. A second theoretical foundation is found in developmental theories, which seek to explain the development of organizational knowledge and skills, in handling mentally ill offenders, through interaction between the mental health and criminal justice systems. In this study, it is asserted that agencies that are appropriately coupled and have experience with collaboration will perceive greater benefits from the collaborative exchange. Furthermore, this leads to the main hypothesis of the current study that agency coupling and collaborative experience will increase the perception of benefits of collaboration and support of collaborative efforts that deal with mentally ill offenders. To assess the main hypothesis of the current study, a modified Dillman methodology was utilized. The research population consisted of a complete enumeration of the 20 Florida State's Attorneys Offices, the 66 County Sheriffs, the 54 Probation Office Managers, and the 313 municipal law enforcement agencies for a total study population of 453 possible respondents, of which 49% responded. Overall, the findings of the current study illustrate a willingness of agencies to couple with outside agencies to address the phenomenon of the mentally ill offender. The results provide theoretical support for the need to reduce the negative stigma of a mentally ill individual being additionally labeled a criminal offender. The results additionally bolster the belief that the knowledge and skills to do this can best be accomplished through interaction with outside agencies.


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Graduation Date





Surette, Raymond


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Health and Public Affairs

Degree Program

Public Affairs








Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)