National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Criminal Justice: The Issues
More than half of all jail and prison inmates have a recent history or symptoms of a mental health problem.[i] 70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have a mental health condition[ii] and proven effective interventions to help these youth are not available in most communities. An estimated 31 percent of women and 14.5 percent of men in jails have a serious mental illness.[iii] Learn more…
Learn more about NAMI’s positions on justice reform.
Failure of the Mental Health System
Our mental health system has been broken and underfunded for decades. From 2009-2012 alone, states cut $4.3 billion from mental health services. As a result, less than one-third of adults and one-half of children with diagnosable mental health conditions get any mental health care. Individuals with untreated serious mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorders can cycle repeatedly through jails, emergency rooms, homeless shelters and other costly settings without ever getting effective services. Learn more…
Violence and Gun Reporting Laws
There is widespread agreement that most people with mental illness are not violent. Most people with mental illness in jails are not charged with violent crimes. NAMI believes that current gun reporting laws contribute to the perception that people with mental illness are dangerous and discourage people from getting needed treatment. Gun reporting laws should be based on the factors determined by science to predict violence, not on an individual’s mental health diagnosis. To the extent that a small subset of individuals with mental illness may pose an increased risk of violence, the best way to reduce this risk is through treatment. Learn more…
Tens of thousands of people living with mental illnesses in jails and prisons are held in small, windowless cells without human interaction or stimulation 23 hours a day for weeks, months or years at a time. Many of these individuals are juveniles or people who have not been convicted of a crime. Learn more.
The Death Penalty
NAMI opposes the death penalty for people with serious mental illness. We in no way minimize or excuse the horrendous crimes that can lead to the death penalty, but we believe the answer lies not in executing people who struggle with illnesses that are no fault of their own. Rather, we should ensure people get the treatment and services they need to prevent these crimes from ever occurring. Learn more…
Law enforcement agencies are increasingly using Tasers and other conducted energy devices. Relatively little independent research has been conducted their safety and efficacy, and there have numerous reports of individuals with serious mental illness dying as a result of use of these devices. NAMI calls for research, regulation and strict standards for the use of these devices as well as training for officers in verbal de-escalation. Learn more…
70 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system have a mental health condition[iv] and proven effective interventions to help these youth are not available in most communities. NAMI supports equipping schools to better identify and respond to children and youth with mental health conditions, and supports the creation of school-based and school-linked mental health services. By diagnosing and treating conditions earlier, communities can ensure that youth can succeed in school, stay in their homes and communities and in stay out of the juvenile justice system. NAMI also believes all juvenile justice systems should screen for mental health conditions and provide evidence based care for youth and their families. Learn more…
[i] Doris J. James and Lauren E. Glaze, "Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates," Bureau of Justice Statistics, September 2006, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/mhppji.htm (Accessed April 3, 2013).
[ii] Telpin, L., Abram, K., McClelland, G., Dulcan, M., & Mericle, A. (2002). “Psychiatric disorders in youth in juvenile detention.” Archives of General Psychiatry, 59, 1133-1143.
[iii] Steadman, H.J., Osher, F.C., Robbins, P.C., Case, B., & Samuels, S. (2009). “Prevalence of serious mental illness among jail inmates.” Psychiatric Services, 60:6, 761-765.
[iv] Telpin, L., Abram, K., McClelland, G., Dulcan, M., & Mericle, A. (2002). “Psychiatric disorders in youth in juvenile detention.” Archives of General Psychiatry, 59, 1133-1143.