Forensic and Corrections SIG Information

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Forensic and Corrections SIG

Affiliated 2015

Contact Information

Ryan Quirk, Ph.D.
Washington State Department of Corrections
Seattle, Washington, USA

SIG Mission/Objectives

The Forensic and Corrections SIG is a professional workgroup dedicated to using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) as the core therapeutic approach to treating behavioral health problems in forensic and corrections settings. The mission of the group is to (a) generate knowledge of effective care, treatment, and services in the context of forensic and corrections settings and individuals’ characteristics, culture, and preferences; (b) apply knowledge to provide quality care, treatment, and services to help individuals achieve values-based outcomes in a supportive environment; (c) integrate knowledge of complementary care, treatment, and services to promote whole-person recovery, wellness, and growth; (d) translate knowledge into professional practices and ACT programs responsive to the needs of individuals; and (e) communicate knowledge through educational programs that provide understanding of ACT, develop and prepare human service providers to deliver ACT-informed care, treatment, or services in forensic and corrections settings.

General interest area to be specifically addressed by this SIG:

The International Centre for Prison Studies (ICPS) estimates more than 10.2 million people worldwide are currently incarcerated as pre-trial detainees/remand prisoners, or sentenced prisoners. This staggering number is even more poignant when you consider half of the world’s prisoners are in the United States (2.24 million), China (1.64 million), and Russia (0.68 million). If the number of pre-trial/ “administrative” detainees in China and North Korea were included, world total would exceed 11 million (2013).

In spite of the staggering number of incarcerates and the escalating costs to governments worldwide, the issue of treating mental illness in forensic and correctional settings becomes a solemn focal point. When you consider the prevalence of psychiatric disorders inherent in this population (e.g., psychosis, depression, personality disorders, and substance abuse) and increased suicide rates (Fazel & Seewald, 2010), the need to address mental illness in these settings becomes a global concern for the mental health community.

The belief that “nothing works” in treating incarcerates (Martinson, 1974) has permeated many correctional and forensics staff who feel any change efforts are pointless based on a client’s deeply rooted cognitive distortions and maladaptive coping strategies shaping criminal behavior. Consequently, incarcerates with mental illness are often under-served and the stigmatization of those with mental illness has continued costs.

Evidence is mounting that Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) represents an intervention that is well suited to address the wide variety of mental health needs of individuals in forensic and correctional settings (Villagrá Lanza, P. & González Menéndez, A., 2013; Villagrá Lanza, P. et al., 2014; Brillhart, 2010).

Description of SIG membership 

This SIG will target the membership of individuals working in forensic settings such as jails, hospitals (and other forms of civil commitment), prisons, and community corrections. In addition, it will include public safety professionals (e.g., police officers, service members, veterans, firefighters, EMTs, correctional officers, paramedics, etc.). Those ACBS members simply interested in the areas above and want to learn more will be welcomed to join, as well.

SIG Activities

To begin with, a listserv will be created in order to carry-out the mission statement described above. The listerv will foster communication across individuals that share a common interest which will generate support and the dissemination of practices.


ACT in Jail

My name is Ken and I currently make use of ACT at the Stanislaus County public safety center. I have a number of ACT groups that I am running and find ACT to be very effective. I would like to hear from others regarding group work of this type and if possible actually get a chance to visit and see others are doing this. I would also be happy to answer any questions about my experience with ACT in custody. Ken (;>

ACT in Jail

Hi there!
I am also using ACT in a group setting for moderate-high risk male violent offenders in a high-security prison in germany. I wrote a GLM-consistent treatment-protocol based on ACT (german language). I also hope i can connect with others working in ACT / GLM-consistent groups with violent and sexual offenders. I am also interested in sharing ideas and experiences in this field. Feel free to contact me:

Best regards, Thomas

ACT in Jail

I'm using ACT 1:1 as a mental health intervention and setting up an ACT group in a male (and minority transgender minority) prison. I'm in UK though. I'll be auditing as with all interventions, but hope we can also get a small scale study underway at some point. I'm very interested in contact with others working in similar ways in this field.

Please add me to the Forensic and Corrections SIG

I am a Psychology Associate with Washington State Dept of Corrections. My focus is an intensive offender change program designed to reduce internal (IMU) and external (community) recidivism rates. Very interested to hear how others are using ACT in corrections settings.

ACT as

Please add me to your listserv. I work for the Oklahoma DMHSAS as manager of prison-based and reentry services. I have utilized the ideas of ACT frequently in co-occurring groups in prison as well as individual therapy in prisons and in private practice, as well as in my own mindfulness-based practice. There is a specific area I am inquiring about with regards to research and any potential group curricula applying ACT ideas to address so-called "criminal thinking." The context for this inquiry is that I am the project director of a reentry program funded by SAMHSA and we are utilizing the Risk Need Responsivity model of service delivery - meaning that we seek to assess the areas of greatest "risk" for further involvement with the justice system and target those areas with evidence-based practices. One general area of risk is termed "criminal behavior" or "criminal thinking" and the most common EBP for this area is the program Thinking for a Change. However, in my opinion Thinking for a Change tends to be quite narrow in its labeling of thinking in terms of "criminal" and does not feel "contextual" or organic nor is it strengths based. Any ideas or feedback you have with regards to ACT research or projects in this area would be very helpful!

kind regards
Marcus Ayers