Crisis Intervention Training reduces stigma of mental illness in prisons

MU study shows new training program improves how Missouri corrections officers interact with inmates who are mentally ill.

March 26, 2021


Brian Consiglio: Dealing with mental illness while in prison can be very difficult. And though many corrections officers have good intentions, it’s important to consider the challenging times an inmate might be going through. So, the Missouri Department of Corrections implemented a new training regimen called Crisis Intervention Team Training, which focuses on improving and deescalating interactions with inmates dealing with mental illness.

In a recent study, Kelli Canada, an associate professor in the school of social work partnered with the department of corrections to determine the effect the training was having on corrections officers. She says CIT training has helped reduce avoidable punishments and sentence extensions.

Canada: “You can imagine these highly regulated institutions with lots of rules. Someone that has a mental illness that’s probably exacerbated because they just transitioned into this really tough setting. It’s hard for them to follow the rules, so they get violations and officers are sending them to segregation as punishment because they’re trying to maintain control in the institution.”

Consiglio: Canada found that the CIT training not only increased the officers’ knowledge of mental illness, but also changed their perceptions of people with mental illness. She says this is one of the first studies to look at the effectiveness of the training in prisons.

Canada: “The literature that we have right now in prisons is really slim. Even though there are places that are doing it, there haven’t been a lot of funded large-scale research studies around how well it’s actually working in institutions. The history of research between research and institutions like prisons has been a little rocky. But here in Missouri, we’ve had nothing but excellent partners.

Consiglio: For more on this research visit

I’m Brian Consiglio with a Spotlight on Mizzou.

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