Improving Cultural Competency: Working with People in the Criminal Justice System Who Have Mental Illnesses

Hosted by the Judges’ and Psychiatrists’ Leadership Initiative, in collaboration with the American Bar Association

Download a PDF of the presentation.

Approximately 2 million times each year, people who have serious mental illnesses are admitted to jails across the nation. Once incarcerated, they tend to stay longer and have a higher risk of returning to jail upon release, largely due to a lack of resources and missed opportunities for connections to treatment. People of diverse backgrounds who have mental illnesses often face even more barriers to accessing treatment and opportunities for improving outcomes, but judges, attorneys, and mental health professionals are uniquely positioned to help establish a fair and equitable landscape for those who are at risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system. Using their position, these legal and mental health professionals can improve their decision making by incorporating cultural competency principles into court processes to address and remove the structural barriers and implicit biases that often disproportionately affect people of color. In turn, this improved decision making can ultimately enhance people’s quality of life, improve public health, and increase community safety.

This webinar provides an overview of the intersection of mental illness and the criminal justice system; describes factors contributing to the need for cultural competency as it relates to people in the criminal justice system who have mental illnesses; identifies strategies and best practices that judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys can employ when working with people of diverse backgrounds who have mental illnesses.