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Act Now to Prevent the Incarceration of People with Mental Illness (NAMI)
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 1st 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 Web site to learn more about the study.

Visit the House Appropriations Committee Web site 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.

*yourock* Paula X


~Thank You~ for this post!!!



Thank you, Paula.  Hello, MzJanice!  This is very good information.  I will read it through and get back with you on this.  I hope the program to help mentally ill persons avoid incarceration includes subsistence assistance and provisions for enforced treatment for those too sick to know their own needs.  Otherwise, jail will continue to be a revolving door for the ones who are most at risk for imprisonment.  Many people don't need enforced care.  They recognize their own needs and attend to them.  But most of those in prison are not that fortunate.


Blessings, and thanks again, Paula! 


Congratulations, Washington, for working on solutions to this issue.

What percentage of the U.S. jail and prison population is mentally ill?   View the situation state-by-state on this map by PBS:

Of the nearly 2 million inmates being held in prisons and jails across the country, experts believe nearly 500,000 are mentally ill. According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), 16 percent of the prison population can be classified as severely mentally ill, meaning that they fit the psychiatric classification for illnesses such as schizophrenia, major depression, and bipolar disorder. According to staff at city and community jails, 25 percent of the jail population is severely mentally ill. However, when other mental illnesses, such as anti-social personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and depression, are included, the numbers are much higher, and NAMI puts the number of inmates suffering from both mental illness and substance abuse the percentage at well over 50 percent.

View a map showing the number of mentally ill in state prison systems.

Why are so many mentally ill people ending up behind bars? Who is to blame?

Most experts agree that the increasing number of imprisoned mentally ill people is due to two major policy shifts over the past decades. One was deinstitutionalization, or the process of closing down mental hospitals throughout the country that began in the 1950s. The idea was that the mentally ill would do better living back in the community with a community-based mental health care system in place to handle their needs. But adequate funding, coordination and commitment didn't follow this change and the lack of resources and commitment to a community-based system of care continues to be a problem in the vast majority of American communities.


This is a very timely question:  Why are so many mentally ill people ending up behind bars? Who is to blame?


When folks stop making money off sending large numbers of Americans to prison, more sensible recourse to imprisoning mentally ill Ameircans is ALREADY available:  Assisted Outpatient treatment programs.


The Justice System and the local courts are to blame

Back in the day (early 70's), if I took a piece of gum from a store without paying for it, I would face the charge of theft on a misdemeanor level, yet, NOW, IF I TOOK THAT PIECE OF GUM FROM A STORE WITHOUT PAYING FOR IT, I'd probably be charged with "ROBBERY WITHOUT A WEAPON", "Intent of robbery while in the commission of a misdemeanor", BOGUS CHARGES!!!!!!!!!! THE CRIMINAL BECOMES THE VICTIM WHEN FACING CHARGES AND SENTENCING IN FLORIDA!!!!! ESPECIALLY THE COUNTY OF BREVARD...........THE The 18th, judicial circuit to name the grand master of them all.........

The justice system can construe any type of flip on a script they want.  If you have challenges such as a mental disorder, it becomes a worse nightmare in the justice system.  That is because they do not really have the training to deal with you.  They can throw you in a cell and forget you are there.


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