Identifying Needs Related to Managing Seriously Mentally Ill Individuals in Corrections [2020-07-20]

According to a consensus of recently convened corrections experts, a confluence of concerning trends is exacerbating a mental health crisis in correctional environments. These trends are straining already limited institutional resources. In some cases, seriously mentally ill (SMI) inmates may face longer periods of confinement than other inmates, while they often require more staff attention and cause more disruption. And, importantly, offenders who are SMI may struggle when they return to their communities. In general terms, individuals with SMI may not fit the traditional standard of corrections, a fact that complicates the task of fully addressing their needs.

The dissolving of community-based mental health resources means that, for some of these individuals, the primary way to connect with necessary physical and mental health care is to engage with the justice system. Many individuals with SMI often struggle with substance abuse issues, making criminal justice encounters more likely. Meanwhile, a sharp rise in serious mental health problems afflicting adolescents suggests that some of these individuals are likely to enter the adult justice issues, making criminal justice encounters more likely. Meanwhile, a sharp rise in serious mental health problems afflicting adolescents suggests that some of these individuals are likely to enter the adult justice issues, making criminal justice encounters more likely. Meanwhile, a sharp rise in serious mental health problems afflicting adolescents suggests that some of these individuals are likely to enter the adult justice system with complex issues going forward.

The growth of the SMI segment of the inmate population can stress and weaken corrections institutions. A critical challenge facing criminal justice agencies generally, and corrections professionals specifically, is understanding how to manage this ever-growing population and its needs.

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Marie Garcia & Paul Haskins
National Institute of Justice, United States Department of Justice
July 20, 2020