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Act Now to Prevent the Incarceration of People with Mental Illness

June 12, 2009

The criminalization of people with mental illness is a growing problem that devastates many members of our community. A study released this month in the journal Psychiatric Services shows that the prevalence of people with serious mental illness in jails is increasing. The study, which was presented June 1 at a Senate briefing featuring NAMI National board member Fred Frese, found that overall, 16% of jail inmates have a serious mental illness. Even more alarming, 31% of female jail inmates have a serious mental illness.   These numbers suggest that up to 2 million jail bookings every year involve an individual with serious mental illness.   

In light of this study, it is more important now than ever before to support programs that help people stay out of jail. This week, the House Appropriations committee approved the FY 2010 budget for Commerce, Justice and Science programs, which includes $12 million for the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA). MIOTCRA grants support communities working on crisis intervention teams (CIT), mental health courts, and similar programs that are proven to help break the cycle of incarceration. The bill also includes $100 million in funding for the Second Chance Act, which supports re-entry programs to help people get the services and support they need   to successfully reintegrate into society. The full House is expected to vote on the bill the week of June 15.

Act Now!

Let your Representatives in the House know that people with mental illness should not be in jail. Write a letter today telling them to support funding for MIOTCRA and the Second Chance Act as part of the 2010 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill.

Learn More

Visit the Criminal Justice/Mental Health Consensus Project website to learn more about the study. 
Visit the House Appropriations Committee website to read a summary of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill.
Read more about the briefing on the prevalence study hosted by the Senate Judiciary Committee.