Mental Health and the Justice System in Durham County (2020-2021)


In recent years, Durham County has taken many steps to improve the interaction between the criminal justice system and people with mental illness and substance use disorders. For example, the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) was formed in 2007 to train law enforcement and first responders to recognize and deescalate mental health crises, connect affected individuals with crisis mental health services and help them avoid jail time. Additionally, Durham County joined the Stepping Up Initiative in 2012. This program involves all stages of justice involvement in a model to improve outcomes at each stage, from arrest through incarceration, trial, probation and release. Both groups have been active in setting up programs, changing practices and promoting awareness about their services, but have had less capacity to analyze impacts of the programs.

Project Description

The primary goal of this project is to provide objective outcomes analysis for the CIT Collaborative, Durham County Detention Facility and Criminal Justice Resource Center. Team members will examine data provided by the Durham County Detention Facility and merged with health information through Duke’s Analytics Center for Excellence. The dataset contains all people booked into the Durham County Detention Facility from 2014 through 2018. Among these 23,000 people, over 17,000 were seen in the Duke Health System during the same time period. The team will also work with a full, deidentified dataset of all people booked in the Durham County Detention Facility from 2004-2017, although this larger set will not be merged with Duke Health data.

With these datasets, there are several research objectives. First, the team will describe the patterns of rearrest into the Durham County Detention Facility in light of usage of Duke Health, focusing primarily on emergency and mental health services. Second, the team will compare outcomes for people with mental illness versus those without mental illness in terms of rearrest and seriousness of crime. Finally, team members will examine the impact of Durham’s interventions in this area by analyzing change over time as the CIT program has grown and as the Stepping Up Initiative has taken root.

Anticipated Outputs

Journal publications; data analysis; stakeholder report and presentations


Summer 2020 – Spring 2021

  • Summer 2020: Complete data validation; perform initial exploratory data analysis; draft report for stakeholders
  • Fall 2020: Begin literature search for background section of publications; continue data exploration and analysis; prepare data for modeling; begin initial modeling; update report to stakeholders
  • Spring 2021: Finalize modeling; write up statistical analysis for publication; complete final report for stakeholders

This Team in the News

In-Depth Look at Wilson Center-Affiliated Bass Connections Projects

See related teams, Mental Health and the Justice System in Durham County (2021-2022) and Stemming the Opiate Epidemic through Education and Outreach (2017-2018), and related Data+ summer project, Mental Health and the Justice System in Durham County (2020).


Image: Durham County Justice Center in Durham, NC, by Alexisrael, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Durham County Justice Center.

Team Leaders

  • Nicole Schramm-Sapyta, Duke Institute for Brain Sciences
  • Maria Tackett, Arts & Sciences-Statistical Science

/graduate Team Members

  • Becky Tang, Statistical Science - PHD, Statistical Science - MS

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Luong Huynh
  • Isabella Larsen
  • Matthew Ralph, Statistical Science (BS), Political Science (AB2)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Michele Easter, School of Medicine-Psychiatry: Social and Community Psychiatry

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Durham Crisis Intervention Team Leadership Collaborative
  • Durham County Detention Facility
  • Stepping Up Initiative
  • Criminal Justice Resource Center