Urge your U.S. Representative to Support Bill to Reduce Criminalization of People with Mental Illness
In 2003, the U.S. Senate enacted the "Mentally Ill Offender and Crime Reduction Act of 2003" (S. 1994), a bill that authorizes $100 million in federal grants that states or local communities can use for a variety of purposes including:
- Creating jail diversion programs;
- Providing treatment to adults with serious mental illness and juveniles with serious emotional disturbance who are incarcerated;
- Funding cross-training of criminal justice, law enforcement, court and mental health personnel; or
- Providing mental health services to individuals with serious mental illnesses upon reentry into the community.
This year, a virtually identical bill – HR 2387 - is before the House of Representatives. Sponsored by Rep. Ted Strickland (D. Ohio), HR 2387 has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. In addition to Congressman Strickland, the bill now has two co-sponsors, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) and Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA).
Advocacy at this time should be focused on finding more co-sponsors, particularly Republicans who serve on the Subcommittee on Crime or the full Judiciary Committee.
The Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security includes the following members:
Howard Coble (R-NC), Chairman Robert C. Scott (D-VA), Ranking Member
Tom C. Feeney (R-FL) Adam Schiff (D-CA)
Robert W. Goodlatte (R-VA) Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)
Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) Maxine Walters (D-CA)
Mark Green (R-WI) Martin T. Meehan (D-MA)
Ric Keller (R-FL)
Mike Pence (R-IN)
J. Randy Forbes (R-VA)
Members of the full Judiciary Committee (in addition to the above) include:
Jim Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI), Chair John Conyers (D-MI), Ranking Member
Henry J. Hyde (R-IL) Howard L. Berman (D-CA)
Lamar Smith (R-TX) Rick Boucher (D-VA)
Elton Gallegly (R-CA) Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
William L. Jenkins (R-TN) Melvin L. Watt (D-NC)
Chris Cannon (R-UT) Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Spencer Bachus (R-AL) William D. Delahunt (D-MA)
John N. Hostettler (R-IN) Robert Wexler (D-FL)
Melissa Hart (R-PA) Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Jeff Flake (R-AZ) Anthony D. Weiner (D-NY)
Steve King (R-IA) Linda Sanchez (D-CA)
John R. Carter (R-TX)
Marsha W. Blackburn (R-TN)
Most youth and adults with mental illnesses in U.S. jails have committed minor offenses that are a direct consequence of lack of treatment and services. More than 16% of adults incarcerated in U.S. jails and prisons have a mental illness, and approximately 20 % of youth in juvenile justice systems have serious mental illnesses. A significant number of these individuals have co-occurring mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders.
- Treatment is the best way to reduce crimes and recidivism among individuals with mental illnesses. Studies clearly demonstrate that the provision of treatment, rehabilitation, and support services have proven effectiveness in preventing additional criminal justice involvement and reducing recidivism among low-level offenders with mental illnesses or co-occurring mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders.
- Targeting resources for jail diversion, mental health/substance abuse treatment, and community reentry services makes good economic sense. In communities where these services are in place, law enforcement and criminal justice systems are freed up to focus on preventing and fighting crime rather than serving as front line responders to people with mental illnesses in crisis.
- Many communities have already established partnerships among key stakeholders necessary to successfully implement programs to reduce involvement of people with mental illnesses in criminal justice systems. These communities are prepared to effectively utilize resources available through this program in ways that will benefit the entire community as well as the individuals served. Collaborations between law enforcement, criminal justice, courts, mental health, substance abuse, consumers and family members have been shown to be most effective in planning and implementing effective services for individuals with mental illnesses who come into contact with juvenile or adult justice systems.
For a copy of the bill, or other information about HR 2387, go to http://thomas.loc.gov/ then enter HR 2387 under "bill number."
Questions about this information should be directed to Ron Honberg, RonH@nami.org, or Andrew Sperling, Andrew@nami.org.