National Alliance on Mental Illness
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CIT in Action

November 2009

Getting caught up in the criminal justice system can be a highly traumatic experience for people living with serious mental illnesses and family members trying to help them. In response, NAMI affiliates throughout the country have shown creativity and leadership in developing an array of resources to help inform and support these individuals. This issue of CIT in Action contains a sampling of some of the best of these resources. We also invite you to share information with us about innovative projects of this kind that you or others in your community may be involved with. This information should be sent to Laura Usher or Ron Honberg.

Feature Story: NAMI California: Bridging Communication Between Prisons and Mental Health Advocates

After Mark Gale's mentally ill son became entangled in the criminal justice and prison system, it became clear that there was a need to ease the exchange of information on persons who were experiencing incarceration and mental illness. Together with advocates, law enforcement and prison officials, he and NAMI California members set out to establish a standardized way of letting friends and family of persons with mental illness help their loved ones get treatment and medication.


Advocacy Spotlight

For the family of a person with mental illness, one of their worst nightmares is watching their loved one get arrested by police. Unfortunately, as many people can't get adequate treatment in their communities, this happens more and more frequently. For a person living with mental illness and his or her family, this can be a terrifying and confusing time. In response to this need, NAMI state and local organizations, and NAMI National, have worked to develop resources that help their members better understand and navigate the criminal justice system.

NAMI New York State

Deborah Faust of NAMI New York State talks about her work in the development of their "How to Help" guide that assists friends and family members of persons with mental illness who are arrested.


NAMI Baltimore

NAMI Baltimore has updated their "Beyond Punishment" guide that assists with helping link people in need with resources. But the process of putting together the guide may have done more than the booklet itself.


NAMI Minnesota

NAMI Minnesota is in the process of updating their guide "Advocating for People with Mental Illnesses in the Minnesota Criminal Justice System". The new guide will include a section on re-entry, and a section for Minnesotans at St. Peter, a maximum security hospital. Anna Meyer, Director of the Criminal Justice Project at NAMI Minnesota says about the new guide, "Today, the challenges to reentry to the community from jail or prison are greater than ever. NAMI Minnesota has increased our work in this area and decided to update our "Advocating'" booklet to reflect that."

The updated booklet is available on the NAMI Minnesota website.

NAMI National

NAMI National's "A Guide to Mental Illness and the Criminal Justice System" can be found online. It includes information about types of crimes (misdemeanors versus felonies), the various steps involved in the criminal justice process and how mental illness factors in, the constitutional rights of criminal defendants, legal competency and insanity defense standards, tips on finding a lawyer, and other information.

NAMI National also provides a lawyer referral service - helping to connect individuals with lawyers in their community who may be able to help. You can contact the legal referral service by email. Unfortunately, we do not have a staff of lawyers, and do not have the capacity to assist with individual legal cases.

News and Announcements

National Reentry Resource Center Launched

On October 6 The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center announced its launch of the National Reentry Resource Center, an initiative to advance the safe and successful return of individuals from prisons and jails to their communities. Authorized by the Second Chance Act of 2007, the resource center's goal is to "provide communities across the country with the best thinking on complex reentry issues, comprehensive resources and myriad forms of support that can help reduce recidivism and strengthen neighborhoods and families". It will provide training and technical assistance to Second Chance Act grant recipients and provide a single point of contact for the many individuals and organizations that are committed to reentry issues.

Learn more about the Second Chance Act you can look over the Department of Justice Web site.

Learn more about the Justice Center's National Reentry Resource Center.

Wichita, Kansas CIT Team

The Wichita Eagle wrote about the Wichita, Kansas CIT team and it's continuing progress two years into it's development. You can read about it on the Wichita Eagle Web site.

Cumberland County, North Carolina CIT Grows

The Fayetteville Observer reported that Cumberland County North Carolina's police have sent their second group of officers for CIT training and this time with more participants than the county's first CIT training in June. Read about it from the Fayetteville Observer.

National CIT Conference: June 1-3, 2010

The National CIT Conference will be held in San Antonio, TX June 1-3 2010. To see the Save the Date announcement, visit the NAMI Web site. To learn more about submitting a proposal to present at the conference, please see the Call for Papers. The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2010. For more information, call 210-358-6919 or check out their Web site.

Comments or Suggestions?

Please let us know what you think we should include in future editions of CIT in Action by emailing Laura Usher.