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Adult Criminal Justice & Diversion

Program Description

Adults involved with the criminal justice and forensic mental health systems often experience a range of co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. These psychiatric symptoms and behavioral manifestations can be especially difficult to manage in criminal justice settings, including pre and post arrest, during pretrial detention, while on probation, and at multiple points during their incarceration. Accordingly, various agencies (police, courts, probation, parole, and corrections) can benefit from relevant research regarding adoption of best practices for management of individuals with mental health and substance use disorder during their involvement with the criminal justice system at-large.

Our work focuses on improving the identification of and response to persons in mental health or substance abuse crisis at various stages of justice system involvement. We help law enforcement, court and corrections systems adopt best practices for interventions to address mental health, addiction, and risk reduction needs to decrease the likelihood of recidivism and improve mental health and wellbeing.

Our research is collaborative and involves a number of state agencies, including the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, the Massachusetts Executive Office of the Trial Court, and Massachusetts Probation Services. Our work has been funded by a range of state and federal organizations, including the National Institutes of Health and Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Our work has focused on:

  • Implementation of standardized and research-informed methods for screening and assessment of risk and needs, mental health and substance abuse
  • Developing methods of improving, standardizing, and systematically evaluating specialty courts, such as Drug Treatment Courts and Mental Health Courts
  • Implementation of Risk-Need-Responsivity approaches into criminal justice and forensic mental health practice
  • Assessment of forensic issues and national policy to assist judicial decisions, such as appropriate diversion of persons with mental illness and/or addiction
  • Integrating mental health and substance abuse treatment into criminal justice settings
  • Law enforcement, corrections personnel, and court officer trainings for identification and management of individuals with emotional disturbance, mental illness, and substance use disorders


Gina VincentGina Vincent, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychiatry & Co-Director

Michelle Crist headshotMichelle Crist, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Associate

Dara Drawbridge headshotDara Drawbridge, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

Spencer Lawson headshotSpencer Lawson, Ph.D.
Senior Research Scientist