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Crisis Intervention Team Training for Correctional Officers: Introduction

By Russ Immarigeon

In the early 2000s, the Maine chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) introduced Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) in the state. Inspired by a 1999 conference presentation on the Memphis CIT model, Maine started work with local law enforcement and county jail staff to establish this model, first in a pilot project, next at seven sites, and later statewide, with 13 of the state's counties now having CITs for their use.

In Corrections & Mental Health, three articles cover Maine-based experiences with the development, implementation, and assessment of CIT intervention and training in the state. In the first of these, Word of Mouth is Often the Route to Enlightenment: A Report from Maine on Starting and Expanding Crisis Intervention Teams in a Rural State, NAMI Maine executive director Carol Carrothers and program director Robert Tiner offer an overview of the organization's involvement with CIT. In another article, Crisis Intervention Teams in Maine's Androscoggin County Jail: A Report on the Early Stages of Implementing a New Corrections-based Practice Working with Mentally Ill Offenders, researchers from the University of New England's Public Health Research Institute, recently renamed the Center for Health Policy, Planning and Research (CHPPR), reports results from a 2005 study of NAMI Maine's work on a pilot project with the Androscoggin County Jail exploring the use of CIT with correctional officers. This project was a success, and NAMI Maine expanded the use of CIT with correctional officers to seven other county jails in the state. The CHRRP was asked subsequently to evaluate this "expansion" initiative, and the results are reported in a 2007 report, which is excerpted in the article, Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training for Correctional Officers: An Evaluation of NAMI Maine's 2005-2007 Expansion Program.

The CHRRP report on NAMI Maine's expanded use of CIT for correctional officers observed that curriculum-related material was based on instructional text that was originally used for training law enforcement officers. In expanding CIT training to correctional officers, it is natural to expect some modification, if only because the work environments and the professional duties of correctional and police officers differ in various ways. But what modifications are being made? That is not entirely clear from these articles. Moreover, what use is the CIT training and practice experience of law enforcement officers for correctional officers? The CHRRP report raised the matter of training correctional officers alongside law enforcement officers: 

Interviews with supervisors and NAMI revealed this to be a particularly valuable part of the training.  Most of the training modules were appropriate for both groups, and NAMI divided the group into two sections for role playing and policy/procedure issues that were more specific to the individual groups.  Supervisors cited that networking opportunities between the two groups were helpful and felt that attending the same training enabled the two groups to gain a better understanding of the issues each faced.

In Corrections & Mental Health, too, are two research articles that focus on the perceptions of CIT-trained police officers to psychiatric crises and to the CIT 40-hour training curriculum. In Psychiatric Crisis from the Perspective of Police Officers: Stigma, Perceptions of Dangerousness, and Social Distance, researchers from Emory University, George Washington University, and elsewhere examine how social distance between mentally ill offenders and police officers affect the latter's on-the-job decision-making.

In Police Officers' Perceptions of the 40-Hour Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Curriculum, the same group of researchers report on police officer responses to a training curriculum that serves as the basis for many corrections-oriented CIT initiatives.

Each of these articles is based on police officer responses to CIT practice and training. They raise important questions for the use of CIT in jails and prisons: Are these experiences helpful for training correctional officers? How should the differences and similarities between law enforcement and correctional officers affect the training they receive? What can correctional officers learn from the experiences and perceptions of police officers? What matters do correctional officers need to tackle on their own? 


Posted Thu, Aug 4 2011 4:05 PM by Tracey Vessels


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