American Sociological Association

Henry J Steadman Award Statement

Henry J Steadman Award Statement

Henry J. Steadman, President of Policy Research Associates, is a world renowned scholar in the sociology of mental health and criminal justice. In a distinguished career of more than 40 years, he epitomizes the sociological practitioner who weaves fundamental contributions to knowledge with significant practical applications. He is the author of 8 books, 20 book chapters, more than 130 peer-reviewed journal articles, and numerous reports.  His publications are strongly focused on how research findings can be incorporated into new treatment decisions and policies. The patient protection policies and treatments in place today for mental health populations with abuse histories are a direct result of Steadman’s relentless pursuit of research based-evidence.

True to the spirit of this award, Steadman has embraced the role of sociological practitioner throughout his career. A mentor to many young and mid-career sociologists, and clinical and legal scholars, Steadman has been enormously effective in institution-building as well as in scholarship. In 1971, he joined a group of research sociologists at the New York State Office of Mental Health in Albany. For the next 17 years, he directed the most visible and highly-regarded state mental health research unit in the United States. A series of innovative studies were undertaken during this time on the career contingencies of persons detained as 'criminally insane' who were released to the community following a Supreme Court decision. His cohort studies tracking releasees back into the community showed that they were no more dangerous than others.

Steadman’s research called into question the capacity to predict future dangerous behavior—far too often relied on as the basis by which courts deprive mentally ill persons of their lives and liberty. Through publications on these and related cognate issues, Steadman pioneered a field of sociological research that brought empirically based knowledge to the courtroom and reframed the basis of making clinical and forensic judgments. This work propelled Steadman quite justifiably to the very forefront of investigators applying sociological concepts and methods to the study of the interface between the mental health and criminal justice systems.

In 1987, Steadman co-founded Policy Research Associates, a research firm dedicated to advancing the field of behavioral health services research for vulnerable populations (he is currently president). He is also a founding member of the MacArthur Foundation's Network on Risk Assessment and the Network on Mandated Treatment. Over the past 20 years, Steadman and his colleagues have produced influential research on the risks of violence among mental patients (much lower than popularly believed) and the coercion that can be associated with clinical treatment. Importantly, this work led to several risk-assessment scales and measures of perceived coercion that are now widely used in the research and clinical practice fields.

Steadman has also led and carried out numerous evaluations of Federal service demonstration programs throughout the U.S. that were focused on persons with mental illness in the justice system. This work yielded numerous policy briefings and regional forums for judges, attorneys, correctional administrators, law officers, mental health clinicians, and other interested citizens. Over the past decade, these sessions have attracted thousands of participants. Steadman has also been regularly sought as an advisor to Federal and state agencies, private foundations, and professional associations. His current projects include: (1) the National GAINS Center for Evidence-Based Practices in the Justice System, (2) the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Mental Health Court Study, (3) the CMHS Transformation Center, and (4) SAMHSA’s Technical Assistance and Policy Analysis Center for Jail Diversion.

Steadman has been honored through many awards by professional societies and advocacy groups, including the Distinguished Service Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (2007); Carl A. Taube Award for Outstanding Contributions in Mental Health Services Research from the American Public Health Association (2005); the Isaac Ray Award from the American Psychiatric Association for outstanding contributions to the psychiatric aspects of jurisprudence (1999); Distinguished Contribution to Forensic Psychology from the American Academy of Forensic Psychology (1998); Saleem A. Shah Award from the State Mental Health Forensic Directors (1994); Philippe Pinel Award from the International Academy of Law and Mental Health (1988); and the Amicus Award from the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law (1987). He received the William Foote Whyte Distinguished Career Award from the American Sociological Association Section on Sociological Practice and Public Sociology in 2010.

Steadman received a B.A. and M.A. in Sociology from Boston College, and a PhD in Sociology from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.