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Serving People from Arrest to Reintegration

Bazelon Center: Ending the Criminalization of People With Mental Illnesses

  • Organization: Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
  • Date Created: Tuesday, January 31, 2006
  • Submitted: Tuesday, January 31, 2006
  • Attachment(s): LINK

Without access to community mental health treatment and other public services, people with mental illnesses are increasingly booked into jails. Once in jail or prison, these men and women are even less likely to receive adequate treatment-both because the criminal justice system lacks the capacity to deliver comprehensive mental health services and because punitive jail settings are the antithesis of a therapeutic environment. The Bazelon Center is committed to reducing the criminalization of people with mental illnesses.

The Bazelon Center is exploring legal advocacy approaches to the increasing criminalization of people with serious mental illnesses. An obvious goal is to reduce the likelihood of arrest or rearrest.

  • One approach is jail diversion. Congress has authorized and funded up to $4 million on a program of grants to assist states and locations in developing programs that would divert people with mental illnesses from the criminal justice system to community-based services.
  • Another approach is discharge planning to ensure access by released individuals with mental health needs to housing and mental health services in the community.

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