Criminal Justice's Mental Health Initiatives

Tue, November 10, 2020 10:39 AM | Marsha Grant (Administrator)

Monterey County Now: When the criminal justice system defaults to a mental health system, it’s not easy to serve defendants.

When the criminal justice system defaults to a mental health system, it’s not easy to serve defendants. Monterey County Jail takes defendants found not competent to stand trial and attempts to restore them to competency. The men enrolled in the program, called Jail-Based Competency Training, go through intense therapy every day to focus on their mental health issues, and also go through court training, to learn and understand who all the players are when they go to the courtroom—who the judge is and why, who the attorneys are and why.

Whidbey New Times: Jail earns distinction for efforts with mentally ill

The Stepping Up Initiative recently named Island County (WA) as one of 23 “Innovator Counties” in the nation for its data-driven efforts to assess and assist people with mental health illnesses in the jail, according to the initiative. County officials say the jail system has been transformed in the five years since the death of Keaton Farris, a 25-year-old man who was suffering from mental illness and died from dehydration alone in his cell. The jail has developed a screening system for people being booked into the jail. The classification tool gauges mental illness and risk; people thought to be suffering from a mental illness are set up for referral with mental health care providers on an urgent or not-so-urgent basis.

Standard Examiner: New Weber County program aims to help jail inmates overcome drug, mental health problems

Weber County (UT) is entering into a four-year, $421,000 contract with the University of Cincinnati to train local staff in helping jail inmates kick drug habits, get mental health counseling and find jobs after release. The program is being paid for by part of a $1 million grant the county was awarded last year by the U.S. Justice Department. The grant is intended for development of community reentry programs for adult inmates with substance abuse and mental health issues, according to Justice Department documents.

New Times: SLO County adopts plan for mental health care at jail

San Luis Obispo County (CA) is working to reduce the number of residents with mental illnesses in its jail and provide better treatment to those who are behind bars. On Nov. 3, officials outlined a strategic plan to do just that. The county’s three-year plan, part of its participation in the national Stepping Up initiative to improve mental health care at county jails, sets four priority areas for action. They include reducing the number of individuals with mental illnesses who are booked into county jail, reducing average daily jail populations, decreasing the average length of a jail stay, and lowering recidivism rates. As of September 2020, 22 percent of all jail inmates had serious mental illnesses, up from 11 percent last year. Officials say the increase is in part due to COVID-19 restrictions at state prisons and hospitals.

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