Dr. Stacey Barrenger Presents at International Congress on Law and Mental Health

July 14, 2017

Assistant Professor Stacey L. Barrenger gave two presentations at the XXXVth International Congress on Law and Mental Health, which took place in Prague, Czech Republic from July 9th through 14th.

Her first talk, part of a panel on “Risk and Reentry in the Context of Institutional and Social Dynamics” was on “Forging New Identities in the Process of Desistance.” She shared results from a life history phenomenological study of 15 individuals with criminal justice and mental health histories who graduated from a peer training program and were working as peer providers. She reported that interviews with participants on their life history, work experiences and process of desistance from crime revealed that “using their criminal and illness narratives in their work allowed individuals to form new identities and reclaim a positive role in society.” She posited that, “Providing opportunities for those with mental illnesses and criminal justice histories to reframe negative experiences may be a critical part of desistance from criminal activity and should be utilized outside of peer training.”

Dr. Barrenger also presented on “Illness and Turning Points among the Formerly Incarcerated” as part of a panel on “Health and Prisoner Reentry.” She cited findings from phenomenological life history interviews with individuals with mental illnesses and incarceration histories who received a serious medical diagnoses. She observed, “Personal narratives around new diagnoses linked to individuals’ other identities of mental illness and criminal offending. However, positive experiences with medical professionals allowed them to experience a non-stigmatized patient identity that became a turning point in addressing their other stigmatized identities leading to a recovery orientation and desistance from criminal activity.”

Complete abstracts for Dr. Barrenger’s presentations can be found in the conference’s Book of Abstracts at https://ialmh.org/congress/prague-2017/.

Dr. Barrenger’s research examines the intersection between the mental health system and other systems of care: criminal justice, homelessness, substance use, and poverty. Her current research on the pathways to recovery and desistance from crime for mental health peer specialists with criminal justice histories and the prison health care experiences of those with mental illnesses who were formerly incarcerated is supported by the NIH Loan Repayment Program for Clinical Research and the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research.

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