New Resource Helps Inform Judges’ Decision Making Related to Defendants Who Have Behavioral Health Needs

November 10, 2017

The Judges and Psychiatrists Leadership Initiative (JPLI) released Practical Considerations Related to Release and Sentencing for Defendants Who Have Behavioral Health Needs: A Judicial Guide and an accompanying bench card, resources designed to assist judges in making informed connections to treatment for people who have behavioral health needs that enter their courts.

The guide and accompanying bench card were informed by a May 2017 convening of judges, psychiatrists, people who have behavioral health needs and have been in the justice system, and family members who came together to discuss behavioral health care resources and decision making around conditions of release and sentencing.

The resulting judicial guide highlights the importance of recognizing a person’s behavioral health needs, identifying the behavioral health resources available in a community, and collaborating with community-based providers to facilitate treatment referrals in order to improve public health and safety and support individual recovery. The guide’s accompanying bench card lists considerations for judicial decision-making when setting conditions of release and sentencing defendants with behavioral health needs, including a list of “do’s and don’ts” and tips at different points of judicial contact.

The judicial guide and bench card were developed with the support of the American Psychiatric Association Foundation.


JPLI aims to stimulate, support, and enhance efforts by judges and psychiatrists to improve judicial, community, and systemic responses to people with behavioral health needs who are involved in the justice system by:

  • Creating a community of judges and psychiatrists through web-based and in-person trainings, and the development and distribution of a newsletter to judges and psychiatrists;
  • Increasing the reach of trainings in order to build the non-clinical skills of court professionals, which will help improve individual and public safety outcomes;
  • Developing educational resources to increase judges’ and psychiatrists’ understanding of the latest research and best practices for people with mental illnesses involved in the justice system.
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