The value of occupational therapy as a community-based service in jail settings is becoming better understood as more research becomes available. Read up on what these services look like and why you should care…
Occupational Therapy in Community Services
Community-based occupational therapy services in jail is becoming increasingly common, especially as the body of knowledge focused on justice-based occupational therapy (JBOT) grows. Occupational therapy is well equipped to address patients at a community level as the profession values and prioritizes addressing barriers to engagement, identifying causes of and solutions to occupational deprivation, advocating for access and occupational justice, and promotion of social well-being initiatives.
Community-based occupational therapy addresses a wide variety of service recipients including families, people struggling with substance abuse, undomiciled persons, incarcerated persons, victims of domestic violence and more. Geriatrics and mental health-focused community-based OT programs are most common. Occupational therapy services based in the community are important for the continuum of care for patient populations who are underinsured, under privileged, and/or not appropriate for OT services in traditional clinical settings.
OT’s Role in Jail
One important factor supporting occupational therapy’s presence in jail settings is that the USA has the largest population of incarcerated persons compared to other developed nations; this statistic indicates a systemic issue that requires advocacy and occupational-justice informed approaches. Occupational therapy services are valuable in assisting preparation for offender re-entry into society as a productive member.
Community-based occupational therapy services within jails may focus on addressing life, work and employment skills as well as psychosocial and interpersonal skills. Occupational therapy services in jail also aims to reduce likelihood offenders will recidivate through introduction of positive coping mechanisms, awareness of community resources, and addressing mental health factors.
Value of Occupational Therapy Services in jail
Early studies show that participants of jail-based OT services find it valuable, especially when life skills including employment and coping are addressed. This is important to recognize as it has been shown that offenders who are able to secure and maintain employment post-release are less likely to recidivate. Many existing non-OT programs are talk-based and heavily theoretical in application; offenders are not given the opportunity to the practice hands-on application and understand applicability of material to their daily routines in the way that occupational therapy allows. There is unfortunately still a gap in information regarding the effectiveness of occupational therapy services in reducing recidivism.
Where Can I Learn More?
The University of Findlay in Findlay, Ohio is involved in jail-based occupational therapy research bodies and initiatives–they also host fieldwork rotations at the local jail. Read their 2020 article describing the establishment and purpose behind these services & keep an eye out for future publications.
Dr. Jaime Muñoz of Duquesne University has several publications exploring and fleshing out the importance of OT in jail settings and justice-based occupational therapy (JBOT). Check out his university profile here to learn more.
St. Louis University (you may have used/heard of their SLUMS assessment) hosts JBOT newsletters and information and seeks to build a collaborative network for JBOT practitioners. Check that out here.
Like this article? Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly education right to your inbox! We promise to treat your email with the respect and love it deserves 🙂