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Changing the Contours of the Criminal Justice System to Meet the Needs of Persons With Serious Mental Illness

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2000
64 pages
This chapter explores the blurred boundaries between the criminal justice and mental health systems in the United States.
Major changes in mental health policies and laws have placed untold numbers of persons with serious mental illness (PSMIs) in the community, where they receive inadequate or intermittent care or no care at all. These changes have caused criminal justice professionals to become involved with PSMIs at every stage of the justice process. This chapter focuses on the arrest, incarceration, and community supervision of PSMIs. The authors review research on the relationship between serious mental illness and violent crime and trace the historical developments that have apparently produced growth in the numbers of PSMIs in the criminal justice system. The chapter also examines how the increased numbers of PSMIs have compelled criminal justice organizations to alter their policies, procedures, and relationships with mental health providers and to confront the difficulties that arise in initiating and sustaining these relationships. Because of the prevalence of drug abuse and dependence disorders among PSMIs in the criminal justice system and the correlation between drug misuse and violent behavior, the authors consider the problem of comorbidity (serious mental illness and substance abuse and dependence disorders). Throughout the chapter, exemplary criminal justice programs for PSMIs are described. The chapter concludes with general recommendations for improving the future care of PSMIs in the criminal justice system, such as building enduring connections between the mental health and criminal justice systems; creating aftercare and consolidated services programs for PSMIs being supervised in the community; developing consistent standards of care for PSMIs in corrections enterprises; and pursuing more research on the nature and extent of serious mental illness among various correctional populations. 253 references

Date Published: January 1, 2000