Exploring Racial Disparities in The Brief Jail Mental Health Screen


The authors analyzed validation data from the Brief Jail Mental Health Screen (BJMHS) to determine whether race predicted screening results and if such a prediction was driven by particular screen items. A total of 22,000 individuals entering five jails over two 8-month periods were screened. The authors constructed binary logistic regression models to assess the impact of race on screening positive and endorsing particular items. Blacks and Latinos had lower odds than Whites of screening positive. Blacks and Latinos had somewhat lower odds than Whites of endorsing two or more symptom items but had appreciably lower odds of endorsing items regarding prior mental health service utilization. Racial differences in BJMHS screening results likely reflect the reproduction of racial disparities rather than valid differences because results were driven by items reflecting known barriers in access to mental health services. Nonetheless, the instrument is likely to remain an improvement over typical jail screening procedures.

Criminal Justice and Behavior