Policymaker and Practitioner Resources

The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program (JMHCP) facilitates collaboration among the criminal justice, juvenile justice, and mental health and substance use treatment systems to better serve individuals with mental disorders and to increase public safety.
Criminal Justice/Mental Health Learning Sites

Since 2006, the CSG Justice Center has worked in partnership with BJA to identify and highlight agencies from across the country with comprehensive and successful criminal justice/mental health programs that are willing to share their expertise. These “learning sites” serve as centers for peer-to-peer learning for other criminal justice and mental health agencies and organizations. To date, the CSG Justice Center and BJA have identified 4 mental health courts and 14 law enforcement agencies that use a range of effective responses to people with mental illnesses involved with the criminal justice system. These sites have been chosen not just for their programmatic successes, but also for their ability to provide insight and guidance to other jurisdictions interested in starting or expanding a criminal justice/mental health collaboration.

Corrections-Based Programs

The number of people with mental illnesses who are in prison or jail, or under probation or parole supervision, has increased dramatically in recent years. This section identifies resources for people who work on initiatives geared toward people with mental illnesses upon their admission to jail or prison, while they are incarcerated, and after they are released to the community to the supervision of probation and/or parole.

  • Adults with Behavioral Health Needs under Correctional Supervision: A Shared Framework for Reducing Recidivism and Promoting Recovery: Introduces an evidence-based framework for prioritizing scarce resources based on assessments of individuals’ risk of committing a future crime and their treatment and support needs. The report also outlines the principles and practices of the substance use, mental health, and corrections systems and proposes a structure for state and local agencies to build collaborative responses.
  • Improving Outcomes for People with Mental Illnesses under Community Corrections Supervision: A Guide to Research-Informed Policy and Practice: Reviews the body of research on community corrections supervision for people with mental illnesses and translates the findings to help officials develop effective interventions. This first-of-its-kind guide helps program planners and policymakers apply research on promising practices to improve outcomes for people with mental illnesses under community corrections supervision.
  • Improving Responses to People with Mental Illnesses: The Essential Elements of Specialized Probation Initiatives: Identifies 10 key components found in successful initiatives to improve outcomes for people with mental illnesses under probation supervision. This first-of-its-kind report provides specific recommendations to probation and mental health policymakers and practitioners for effectively responding to this population’s complex treatment and service needs while improving public safety and health.
  • Brief Jail Mental Health Screen: Developed by Policy Research Associates, this tool can be used as a screening instrument for both men and women.
  • Collaboration Assessment Tool: Enables leaders in corrections or mental health organizations to assess their current level of collaboration and chart a course for improving collaboration in four categories: knowledge base, systems, services, and resources.
  • Consensus Project Report Recommendations: Offers detailed recommendations, endorsed by leaders representing jail, prison, community correction, and mental health systems across the country, to help policymakers and practitioners improve corrections-based responses to people with mental illness.
  • Re-Entry Policy Council Report Recommendations: Offers detailed recommendations for improving the likelihood of successful reentry among adults with mental illnesses released from prison and jail.
  • Navigating the Mental Health Maze: A Guide for Court Practitioners: Provides a crash course for any and all criminal justice professionals whose understanding of mental illness and the mental health system may be limited.
  • Critical Connections: This discussion paper identifies key questions and issues every policymaker should consider when seeking to help people leaving prison and jail connect to needed mental health and substance use treatment. All states, regardless of the scope of their Medicaid coverage, can use this paper to ensure prisons and jails are positioned as effective hubs for helping eligible people get public health care coverage and social security and veterans benefits.

People with mental illnesses appear repeatedly before judges and cycle in and out of jail for low-level crimes which are often the result of untreated mental illness. This section identifies resources for people who are working with a mental health court or other court-based initiative geared toward defendants with a mental illness.

Crime Victims

People with serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, or serious depression, are vulnerable to domestic violence, sexual assault, and other forms of criminal victimization. Yet frequently, these individuals fail to get the treatment, services, support, and protection they need. Limited awareness about the link between mental illness and victimization and insufficient coordination across victim and mental health services jeopardizes the mental health of these individuals and places them at higher risk of future victimization. The resources in this section provide information pertaining to crime victims that people may want to keep in mind as they plan, implement, or expand collaborative initiatives between criminal justice and mental health systems.

  • A Guide to the Role of Crime Victims in Mental Health Courts: Details how the nontraditional operations of mental health courts contribute to limited victims rights policies and recommends practical solutions for improving them. The guide also includes examples of how some mental health and other specialty courts have successfully addressed this challenge.
  • Responding to People Who Have Been Victimized by Individuals with Mental Illnesses: Outlines steps policymakers, advocates, mental health professionals, and others can take to understand and protect the rights and safety of victims of crimes committed by individuals found “not guilty by reason of insanity” or otherwise court-ordered to receive treatment in a mental health facility.
  • VictimLaw: website run by the National Center for Victims of Crime with support from the U.S. Department of Justice’a Office for Victims of Crime. It contains overview information of standard victim rights outlined in state law. The website also has a searchable database of state statutes pertaining to victims.
Juvenile Justice/Mental Health

Communities around the country have increased their attention on the needs of youth with mental illnesses who come in contact with the juvenile justice system. The resources listed below may be useful to individuals working with this population.

Law Enforcement

Without adequate training and access to community-based mental health resources, law enforcement officers face tremendous obstacles in responding to people with mental illnesses. This section identifies resources for local law enforcement agencies considering applying for a grant.

Mental Health Advocates

In communities across the country, mental health advocates have been a driving force for change in improving responses to people with mental illnesses involved in the criminal justice system. But while advocates in these communities may be familiar with how the lives of individuals with mental illnesses in the criminal justice systems can be impacted, they may be less familiar with how to engage potential partners in these systems. The resources in this section provides strategies for advocates to reach out to representatives from criminal justice and mental health systems who may be applying for grants.

  • The Advocacy Handbook: Recommends strategies to mental health advocates who want to improve outcomes for people with mental illness involved in the criminal justice system and are seeking to engage and focus policymakers and leaders in the criminal justice system.