National Alliance on Mental Illness
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An Alternative to Incarceration
The incarceration of people with mental illnesses has long been a concerning issue for mental health care and criminal justice professionals alike. Prisons are ill equipped to meet the needs of offenders with mental illnesses. Furthermore, the criminalization of this population does not result in care, but adds to the cycle of prison violence and lack of treatment during incarceration and upon release. In recent years, mental health courts have been developed in order to combat the criminalization of the mentally ill by offering treatment instead of prison sentences. Mental health courts consist of specific dockets dedicated to individuals with mental illnesses. The purpose of such courts is to divert persons with mental illnesses away from jail or prison and have them enter into treatment programs in their communities. Defendants are monitored by an appointed judge and community mental health care workers assigned to their case. The ultimate goal of such courts is to decriminalize mental illness and separate those with mental illnesses from a criminal population. The implementation of mental health courts is a positive and growing agenda aimed to assist defendants not only remain out of trouble, but receive treatment and have that care continue after their case is dismissed. Congress feels mental health courts are a needed institution. Therefore it has promoted their development by passing
NAMI supports the enactment of mental health courts and applauds the city of
Read more about NAMI’s position on the criminalization of people with mental illness.
Learn more about Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) from NAMI's CIT Technical Assistance Resource Center.