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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.

Prison System Current Practices and Recommendations

Criminal Justice System

Effective Prison Mental Health Services: Guidelines to Expand and Improve Treatment

2004 US Department of Justice online Manual that discusses historical, legal, and ethical matters related to addressing mental illness within the corrections. It includes identifying which inmates require treatment and
Criminal Justice System

National Institute of Justice Rated Practices

A searchable and comprehensive list of practices in the criminal justice system that includes a summary and evidence rating for each practice.
Criminal Justice System

Identifying Needs Related to Managing Seriously Mentally Ill Individuals in Corrections

A 2020 National Institute of Justice workshop conducted by experts from various field that focused on identifying needs related to managing individuals with serious mental illness within the justice system.
Criminal Justice System

Interventions for Adults With Serious Mental Illness Who Are Involved With the Criminal Justice System

September 2012 study that provides an overview of treatment of those with serious mental illness  as well as a comparison chart of typical treatment in prisons, jails, forensic hospitals, incarceration-
Criminal Justice System

Mental health Care and Treatment in Prisons: A New Paradigm to Support Best Practice

February 2017 research article that provides and overview of research backed key areas that could be utilized in order to further develop comprehensive care for mentally ill individuals in prison.
Criminal Justice System

Mental Health Standards for Virginia’s Regional and Local Jails

Minimum standards for behavioral healthcare in local and regional jails generated by a collaborative workgroup in August 2018.