Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice Overview

NAMI California believes that advocacy and education relating to criminal justice issues is an integral part of serving individuals living with serious mental illness. Far too often, individuals in need of treatment end up in the criminal justice system due to inadequate access to care, lack of appropriate training of law enforcement to distinguish criminal behavior from the behavior of an individual in a mental health crisis, and lack of appropriate facilities to provide treatment, among numerous other reasons.

We are keenly aware of the challenges faced by individuals and families in navigating both the health care and criminal justice system in an attempt to produce the best outcome for the individual or their family member.

This page is meant to provide resources to help families and individuals navigate the criminal justice system and ensure fair and appropriate treatment of individuals with mental illness in the system. Importantly, NAMI California also supports policies that would help to keep individuals with mental illness out of the traditional justice system and divert them into treatment programs that provide the appropriate treatment and support they need.

See excerpts of NAMI California’s Public Policy Platform as it relates to criminal justice issues below:

·        Mental health systems have ultimate responsibility for treating all people with severe mental illness. A substantial number of people with severe mental illness require twenty-four hour, seven day a week structured care, either for long or short periods of time. It is never appropriate to allow the care of such persons to be shifted to the criminal justice system.

·        NAMI California endorses the principal of therapeutic jurisprudence, which emphasizes that the law should be used, whenever possible, to promote the mental and physical wellbeing of the people it affects. For example, in a system characterized by therapeutic jurisprudence, people with serious mental illnesses charged with non-violent crimes are diverted into programs designed to address their treatment and service needs, rather than incarcerated. Individuals with serious mental illnesses convicted of serious crimes are provided with humane and appropriate treatment while incarcerated. And, these individuals are provided with appropriate linkages to needed services and supports upon discharge to enable them to successfully reenter their communities.

·        NAMI California believes that education about serious mental illnesses at all levels of judicial and legal systems is crucial to the appropriate disposition of cases involving offenders with serious mental illnesses. Judges, lawyers, police officers, correctional officers, parole and probation officers, law enforcement personnel, court officers, and emergency medical transport and service personnel should be required to complete at least 20 hours of training about these disorders. Consumers and family members should be a part of this educational process.

·        NAMI California believes that state and local mental health authorities must work closely in conjunction with state and local correctional and law enforcement agencies to develop strategies and programs for compassionate intervention by law enforcement, jail diversion, treatment of individuals with serious mental illnesses who are incarcerated, and discharge planning and community reintegration services for individuals with serious mental illnesses released from correctional facilities.

·        Humane and effective treatment for serious mental illnesses while in correctional settings is the constitutional right of inmates with severe mental illnesses. NAMI California strongly urges the enactment of state statutes expanding treatment programs within prison and jail settings, including first line access to new generation medications whenever clinically indicated.

·        NAMI California endorses state laws and policies establishing systems of community treatment for offenders with serious mental illnesses who are released on parole and/or are in the community on probation or parole status.