Delaware, Idaho, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin will take part in the Chief Justices' Criminal Justice/Mental Health Leadership Initiative, a national project that helps state supreme court chief justices improve responses to people with mental illnesses involved in the justice system. The four states will convene task forces to examine ways to enhance how the criminal justice system addresses the needs of people with mental illnesses.
The task forces will receive support and technical assistance from the Council of State Governments Justice Center and its co-coordinator, the National GAINS Center. Last year, seven state chief justices participated in the initiative, which was designed in collaboration with the Conference of Chief Justices, and many of these states have succeeded in sparking significant policy change. The frequency with which people with mental illnesses cycle through the criminal justice system remains a major concern. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in 2006 that nearly a quarter of both state prisoners and jail inmates who reported they had a mental health problem had served three or more prior incarcerations. Support to the state task forces comes from grants from the JEHT Foundation and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.