Stepping Up Initiative Reduces the Number of People With Mental Illness in Jail

Stanford Social Innovation Review

By Victoria Brownworth 

The largest psychiatric facilities in the United States are prisons. It’s a sobering fact: 2.3 million adults are held in America’s prisons and jails, according to 2019 data from the Prison Policy Initiative. Within this statistic, approximately 20 percent of inmates in jails and 15 percent of inmates in prisons have a serious mental illness. There are three times as many mentally ill people housed in jails and prisons as there are in hospitals. Since 2015, the Stepping Up Initiative (SUI) has worked in communities across the country to reduce these numbers by diverting people with mental illness into mental health programs. SUI created a national coalition of mental health, law enforcement, and substance abuse professionals, and brought together community leaders and formerly incarcerated people to tackle the problem

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