Persons with SMI In the Criminal Justice System: Resources
Individuals with mental health needs are over-represented in jails and prisons across the United States. While incarcerated, per the ruling set forth in Ruiz vs. Estelle, individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) are entitled by law to mental health treatment that includes standard mental health screening, as well as crisis and suicide intervention. More specialized mental health treatment varies across the prison system depending on type of facility (e.g., jail versus prison), level of security (e.g., minimum versus maximum) (AHRQ), and region and funding. There are also often barriers to basic care including lack of staff retention and training, difficulty maintaining continuity of care, and the environment of most prisons and jails, which often further harm individuals with SMI and continue the cycle of arrest and incarceration (CWRU). Due to these limitations, barriers, and inconsistencies, there is difficulty in both generating and implementing best practices for SMI treatment with the prison system, though there are basic recommended practices. In recent years there has been more emphasis on diversion and re-entry treatment practices which have often been found to be more effective (CWRU).
The below resources provide an overview of the issue, current practices and recommendations, transitioning from incarceration to the community, and recommendations for incarceration alternatives.