Correctional Officers De-escalation Education (CODE) | NAMI

Jails and prisons in the U.S. face serious challenges in addressing the needs of people with mental illness who are incarcerated. Facilities are not therapeutic environments and can often exacerbate symptoms. As people with mental illness continue to be incarcerated at high rates, corrections professionals should have the tools and resources to meet the needs of people with mental illness.

CODEThe Correctional Officers De-escalation Education (CODE) project is a resource to help train officers working in jails and prisons, on how to respond to challenges they face when working with people with mental illness who are incarcerated, including: effective communication, skillful intervention and monitoring guidelines and successful de-escalation strategies.

Increased knowledge and awareness about mental illness can help equip correctional officers with information and skills to better assist people with mental illness who are in their facilities, making them more effective in their work and their job less stressful.

What Does The CODE Project Offer?

It provides a training film with real-life scenarios and a detailed facilitator’s guide.


The film features inmates sharing their stories of living with mental illness in prison, correctional officers’ experiences working with inmates and scenarios on common interactions.

NAMI Presents CODE: Correction Officer De-escalation Film 67 minutes.


Facilitator’s Guide

The guide provides information for facilitators, including how to prepare for the training, suggested talking points, group discussion questions and more.


Who Is The CODE Training For?

This training can be used at multiple points within a correctional officer’s career:

  • Provide the training to new officers during or immediately following academy training since they will be working with people with mental illness from day one on the job. By teaching them CODE’s techniques and information from the beginning, they can use what they learned throughout their careers.
  • Provide the training to experienced officers as a standalone training or integrated with other in-service trainings conducted semiannually or annually, like de-escalation training or CORE training. The training can also be paired with other relevant training courses like American Correctional Association Behavioral Health Certification and Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training.

Who Created These Resources?

CODE was developed and sponsored by NAMI Tennessee in cooperation with the Tennessee Department of Corrections and the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. CODE was funded in part by grants from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

CODE (The Movie) was produced and directed by Dixie Gamble and includes:

  • Pete Earley, Author and Journalist
  • Dr. Xavier Amador, Author and CEO of the Henry Amador Center on Anosognosia
  • Ron Honberg, Former Director for Policy and Legal Affairs for NAMI
  • Dr. Ken Duckworth, NAMI’s Chief Medical Officer
    • Narration by Steve Lopez, author of a best-selling book that inspired the film “The Soloist”

The CODE: Facilitator’s Film Screening Guide was created by NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, with the help and support of:

  • Jeff Fladen, Executive Director, NAMI Tennessee
  • Sherlean Lybolt, Mental Health Programs Coordinator, Tennessee Department of Corrections
  • Douglas Reed, Director of Partnerships & Engagement, Black Men Heal
  • Randall Honey, Deputy Warden, Utah Department of Corrections
  • Joseph Doman, Correctional Administrator II, Utah Department of Corrections
  • Ron Bruno, Executive Director, CIT International

Guide Author: Jessica Tornabene, Senior Manager, Justice Diversion Task Force, NAMI

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