Human Services in Criminal Justice and Forensic Settings


The wide spread of mental health issues among the young people within juvenile justice systems needs responses to identify and treat disorders. Majority of the over two million children and adolescents arrested annually in USA have mental health disorder. More than 70% of youth within the system have mental disorder, and one in five suffers from a mental illness which is severe to the extent of impairing their capacity to function as a young person and a responsible adult. The lack of treatment can lead to a path of behavior which includes continued delinquency and, eventually, adult criminality (Thornes, & Bailey, 2010, p, 549). Effective evaluation and extensive responses to court-involved juveniles with mental health needs may aid in breaking this cycle & produce young people that are less likely to commit crimes. This paper will focus on mental illness among juveniles.

Forensic and criminal justice settings can the Human Service Professional encounter mentally ill juvenile offenders?

Through forensic analysis, a Human Service Professional encounter note that a juvenile is under the influence of drugs. This would be based on their behaviors and physical warning signs exhibited by the young person. Within a criminal justice settings, a Human Service Professional encounter behaviors which are exhibited by the juvenile and which borders being unlawful and which would tend to make them to become violent and engage in criminal activities.

Ethical and legal dilemmas when working with mentally ill juveniles

The ethical and legal issues relates to confidentiality. At one hand, the Human Service Professional is expected not to share private and confidential information about the juvenile but on the other hand, the law requires them to provide information about the juvenile when in court (Aradi, & Piercy, 2011, p, 63). As a result of, Human Service Professional face dilemmas of complying with the law and ensuring confidentiality. The other ethical dilemma would be lack of support and corporation from the family of the juvenile who fear that the Human Service Professional may inform the public about the situation of their youths.

Link between mental illness in juveniles and offending behaviors

Most of the youths within the justice system have been exposed to physical, emotional and sexual trauma hence an elevated proportion of young offenders have meet diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder and which if not treated would make them to become violent and commit other crimes (Teplin, Abram, McClelland, Washburn, & Pikus, 2012, p, 1779). Trauma has been linked to several adverse outcomes for youths, including poorer mental health and an increased possibility of experiencing depression and suicidality. Such youth are likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors, abuse substances, and engage in aggressive, violent and antisocial behaviors. Substance use disorders is common among American young offender. Most youth’s commit crimes while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and some substances and which if not treated would encourage them to commit crime.

Assessment tools

Practical Adolescent Dual Diagnosis Interview

It’s a robust interview based on the DSM-5 for noting co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders among youths. It makes it possible for both addiction and mental health professionals to document issues within their areas of expertise and make focused referrals for conditions beyond their scope of their expertise (Bailey, & Tarbuck, 2006, p, 375).

Behavioral Assessment System for Children

It’s a self-report tool which has varying versions. The BASC-2 has different age -appropriate versions ranging from childhood to young adulthood. It offers norm-based information relating to issues like aggression, anxiety, attention challenges, conduct issues, and depression (Bailey, & Tarbuck, 2006, p, 377).

Typical mental illnesses experienced by juvenile offenders


It has been characterized by the persistence of feeling of sadness or misery. Many researches have documented high rates of depression among incarcerated youths. Recently, Beve and colleagues (2003) indicated that 17% of incarcerated young male offenders within Toronto met criteria for depression or bipolar disorder.


Studies from Canadian and American correctional setting have indicated that a huge percentage of the incarcerated juveniles (46–83%) meet criteria for two or more DSM-IV disorders. The commonly reported types of psychiatric comorbidity among juveniles are a substance abuse disorder with a mood disorder.

Substance Use Disorders (SUDs)

Most researches on youths in the juvenile justice system have produced approximates of SUD’s reaching 50%. Result from one of the most extensive research has shown that 45% of the youth arrested in a one year period met DSM-IV criteria for substance abuse/dependence. Prevalence rates of SUDs of 51% for males and 47% for females.

Psychiatric rehabilitation has become the treatment of choice for PMI. Psychiatric rehabilitation involves several social and educational services and supportive societal intervention to assist the juveniles achieve enhanced functioning like significant levels of independence (Wasserman, Jensen, Cocozza, & Angold, A., et al. 2013, p, 754). Certain individuals are helped through taking medication for a while others might need it on an ongoing basis. Medical studies have shown that most mental illnesses are linked to alterations in brain chemistry. Medications helps the brain to restore its usual chemical balance hence lowering the symptoms of mental illness.


Aradi, N.S., & Piercy, F.P. (2011). Ethical and legal guidelines related to adherence to treatment protocols in family therapy outcome research. American Journal of Family Therapy,      13(3), 60-65

Bailey, S., & Tarbuck, P. (2006). Recent advances in the development of screening tools for         mental health in young offenders. Current Opinions in Psychiatry, 19, 373–377.

Kurtz, Z., Thornes, R., & Bailey, S. (2010). Children in the criminal justice and secure care           systems: How their mental health needs are met. Journal of Adolescence, 21, 543–553

Teplin, L. A., Abram, K. M., McClelland, G. M., Washburn, J. J., & Pikus, A. K. (2012). Detecting mental disorder in juvenile detainees: Who receives services. American Journal      of Public Health, 95, 1773-80

Wasserman, G. A., Jensen, P. S., Ko, S. J., Cocozza, J., Trupin, E., Angold, A., et al. (2013).        Mental health assessments in juvenile justice: Report on the consensus conference.             Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 42, 751-761

One thought on “Human Services in Criminal Justice and Forensic Settings

  • September 7, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    Hi, this is a comment.
    To get started with moderating, editing, and deleting comments, please visit the Comments screen in the dashboard.
    Commenter avatars come from Gravatar.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *