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The Seriously Mentally Ill who come into contact with the criminal justice system pose challenges beyond those presented by offenders without a significant mental disorder. One challenge is that the responsibility for their care and management are often shared by two separate systems (criminal justice and mental health). Moreover, these two systems may have divergent goals and the means to the goals. The presentation argues that the two can work together by integrating what is known to be effective in the criminal justice system with what is presently being delivered in the mental health system. In particular, it is argued that in the field of corrections the widely accepted Risk-Need-Responsivity (RNR) model can significantly enhance assessment and rehabilitation effectiveness among forensic populations. Moreover, the case is made that application of the RNR principles can be applied in face-to-face interactions between staff and clients for the benefit of all involved.


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  • Understand the history of “what works” in offender rehabilitation;
  • Appreciate the relevance of the Risk-Need-Responsivity (RNR) model with forensic clientele;
  • Provide the research and knowledge of how the RNR model can be applied in direct treatment of those with mental health challenges.


James Bonta, Ph.D.

James Bonta, Ph.D.

Jim Bonta received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Ottawa in 1979. Upon graduating, Dr. Bonta was the Chief Psychologist at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, a maximum-security facility for adults and young offenders. During his 14 years at the Detention Centre, he established the first full-time psychology department in a jail setting in Canada.

In 1990 Dr. Bonta joined Public Safety Canada where he was Director of Corrections Research until his retirement in 2015. Throughout his career, Dr. Bonta has held various academic appointments, professional posts, and he was a member of the Editorial Advisory Boards for the Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice and Criminal Justice and Behavior. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Psychological Association, a recipient of the Criminal Justice Section’s Career Contribution Award for 2009, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, 2012, the Maud Booth Correctional Services Award (2015) and the 2015 Community Corrections Award, International Corrections and Prisons Association.

Dr. Bonta has published extensively in the areas of risk assessment and rehabilitation. His latest publications include a book co-authored with the late D. A. Andrews entitled The Psychology of Criminal Conduct now in its seventh edition (with translations in French, Japanese, and Taiwanese). He is also a co-author of the Level of Service risk-need classification instruments which have been translated into seven languages and are used by correctional systems throughout the world.