Unfortunately, a consistent and dangerous narrative has emerged—an explanation all-too-readily at hand when a mass shooting or other violent tragedy occurs: The perpetrator must have been mentally ill.
Mental Health Media Clips
Call it what you will—jail overcrowding, criminal justice reform, a mental health crisis in our jails, mass incarceration or chronic recidivism. All have been the subject of discussions both nationally and locally. The simple fact is there are too many people in our jails and prisons who do not need to be there. As a society, we pay a high cost for poor outcomes.
It has been eight years since Congress passed a law requiring health insurers to provide Americans suffering from mental illness or substance abuse disorders with coverage for treatment that’s comparable to what they would get if they were physically sick. So far, that promise has largely not been met, many mental health advocates say.
Wisconsin is part of a growing nationwide movement to adopt trauma-informed care, or using information about children’s troubled pasts, to improve mental health, provide social services and address a wide range of criminal justice problems.
“Data” was the word of the day at the Stepping Up Summit, held April 17 to 19 in Washington, D.C. Teams from 50 U.S. counties gathered at the summit, the latest event held by the Stepping Up Initiative, which seeks to reduce the numbers of people with mental illness in America’s county jails. The initiative is sponsored by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, the National Association of Counties, and the American Psychiatric Association Foundation.
A presentation from a national advocate for mental health and criminal justice Tuesday indicated Douglas County is doing the right things to reduce the number of individuals with mental illness or substance abuse problems in the county jail.
The answer is not simply to build more psychiatric facilities, but rather to fulfill the promise of deinstitutionalization by providing effective treatment and supports in the least restrictive setting.
Perhaps most notably, states now must set “maximum time and distance” standards to ensure that there are enough doctors in the right places.
On average, the percentage of mentally ill people behind bars is more than three times the percentage of people in the general population with mental illness, a legislative task force was told Thursday.
Running a jail is about much more than processing and housing people awaiting trial. At larger facilities, efficiency, personnel management, and resource allocation may mean the difference between swift and delayed justice. Now, some administrators are setting a new goal: making their jails run more like companies.