Amy Watson, PhD


Dr. Amy Watson is a professor in the Social Work Department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Dr. Watson has worked extensively on issues involving persons with serious mental illnesses that come in contact with the criminal justice system. During the past two decades, her research has focused on police encounters with persons with mental illnesses and the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) model. She has also conducted research on mental health courts and prison re-entry programs. Her current work is looking at models to reduce/eliminate the role of law enforcement in mental health crisis response.

Dr. Watson has been actively involved in court and law enforcement advisory groups and served on the compliance team for the Department of Justice settlement agreement with the City of Portland (OR)/Portland Police Bureau. Earlier in her career, she worked as a probation officer on a team serving clients with serious mental illnesses and as a forensic social worker/mitigation specialist working on death penalty cases.


  • Ph.D., University of Chicago, Social Service Administration, 2001
  • A.M., University of Chicago, Social Service Administration, 1997
  • B.A., Criminal Justice, Aurora University, 1991

Professional Interests:

  • Mental health policy & services
  • Serious mental illness
  • Research methods
  • Crisis intervention
  • Reducing the involvement of law enforcement/criminal legal system

Recent Funding:

  • 2019-2021: Co-investigator. Minor Charges with Major Impacts: Understanding the Use of Select Misdemeanor Charges among Persons with Serious Mental Illnesses. National Science Foundation, PI Michael Compton-Columbia University.
  • 2019-2021: Co-investigator. Reducing Duration of Untreated Psychosis Through Early Detection in a Large Jail System NIMH, PI Michael Compton-Columbia University.
  • 2018-2019: Principal Investigator. De-escalation Scenario Skill Test Measure Development, Jane Addams College of Social Work.
  • 2018-2012: Co-investigator. A Trial of a Police-Mental Health Linkage System for Jail Diversion and Reconnection to Care, NIMH, PI Michael Compton-Columbia University.
  • 2017-2019: Co-investigator, National TTA Center for Improving Police Response to MHD/IDD DOJ/OJP/BJA Vera Institute of Justice (Primary Grantee).
  • 2016-2020: Principal Investigator, Evaluation of the Westside Community Engagement Project, Kennedy Forum Illinois.
  • 2012-2019: Principal Investigator, CIT & MH Service Access in Police Contacts: Impact on Outcomes of Persons with Serious Mental Illnesses NIMH R01 MH 096744-01A.

Media Coverage:

Recent Publications:

  • Wood, Jennifer D, Watson, Amy C, & Barber, Christine. (2021). What can we expect of police in the face of deficient mental health systems? Qualitative insights from Chicago police officers. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 28(1), 28–42.
  • Canada, KE, Watson AC & O’Kelley, S (2020, online first) Utilizing Crisis Intervention Teams in Prison to Improve Officer Knowledge, Stigmatizing Attitudes, and Perception of Response Options. Criminal Justice and Behavior, DOI: 10.1177/0093854820942274.
  • Usher L, Watson AC, Bruno R, Andriukaitis S, Kamin D, Speed C & Taylor S: Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Programs: A Best Practice Guide for Transforming Community Responses to Mental Health Crises. Memphis: CIT International. 2019. Available at:
  • Watson, A. C., & Compton, M. T. (2019). What research on crisis intervention teams tells us and what we need to ask? The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 47(4), 422.
  • Watson A. C., Compton, M.T. & Pope, L.G. (2019). Crisis Response Services for People with Mental Illnesses or Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: A Review of the Literature on Police-based and Other First Response Models. New York: Vera Institute of Justice.
  • Repp A.I., Watson A.C., Burns J., Rickman-Jones L., (2019). The West Side Community Outreach Pilot Project: A Mental Health Outreach Initiative in Urban Communities of Color. Social Work and Mental Health DOI: 10.1080/15332985.2019.1625477
  • Hall, D., Lee, L., Manseau, M. W., Pope, L., Watson, A. C., & Compton, M. T. (2019). Major mental illness as a risk factor for incarceration. Psychiatric Services, 70(12), 1088-1093. doi:10.1176/
  • Bohrman C., Wilson A., Watson, A.C., Draine J.N.  (2018). How police officers assess for mental illnesses. Victims and Offenders, 13(8), 1077-1092
  • Watson A.C., Fulambarker A., Kondrat D.C., Holly L.C., Kranke D., Wilkins B.T., Stromwell L.K., Eack S.M. (2017). Social Work Faculty and Mental Illness Stigma. Journal of Social Work Education.53 (2) 174-186.
  • Wood J.D., Watson A.C., Fulambarker A.J. (2017). The “Gray Zone” of Police Work During Mental Health Encounters: Findings from an Observational Study in Chicago. Police Quarterly, 20 (1) 81-105 DOI: 10.1177/1098611116658875
  • Wood J.D. and Watson A.C. (2017). Improving police interventions during mental health-related encounters: Past, present and future. Policing & Society, 27 (3)289-299.  doi:10.1080/10439463.2016.1219734
  • Watson, A.C., Compton, M.T. & Draine, J.N. (2017). The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) model: An evidence‐based policing practice? Behavioral Sciences & the Law. 35 (5-6) 431-441. DOI: 10.1002/bsl.2304
  • Watson A.C., & Wood, J.D. (2017). Everyday police work during mental health encounters: A study of call resolutions in Chicago and their implications for diversion. Behavioral Sciences and the Law-35 (5-6) 442-455. doi:10.1002/bsl.2324
  • Thomas, S & Watson A. (2017). A focus for mental health training for police", Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, Vol. 3 Issue: 2, pp.93-104.
  • Kelly B.L., Barrenger S.L., Watson A.C. & Angell B. (2017). Forensic Assertive Community Treatment: Recidivism, hospitalization, and the role of housing and support.  Social Work in Mental Health, 15 (5) 567-587.
  • Watson A.C., Fulambarker A., Kondrat D.C., Holly L.C., Kranke D., Wilkins B.T., Stromwell L.K., Eack S.M.. (2017). Social Work Faculty and Mental Illness Stigma. Journal of Social Work Education.53 (2) 174-186.
  • Markowitz, F. & Watson, A.C. (2015). Police Response to Domestic Violence: Situations involving veterans exhibiting signs of mental illness. Criminology. 53 (2) 231-252 DOI: 10.1111/1745-9125.12067