California Gets New Ideas for Helping the Mentally Ill in the Justice System


On April 29, the Judicial Council of California received a long list of recommendations to improve how courts handle the seriously mentally ill, a population that makes up 23 percent of the state’s prison inmates.

The list of 137 recommendations come from the Task Force for Criminal Justice Collaboration on Mental Health Issues, a group made up of California judges, public defenders, and representatives from the mental health, addiction and child advocacy fields. The task force was created in 2008 through funding from the Council on State Government’s Consensus Project to identify places within the justice system where people with mental illness can be better served, promote best practices, and evaluate the effectiveness of programs and services.

Among the recommendations, the task force suggests educating police on community alternatives to incarceration for the mentally ill and encouraging mental health patients to create a Psychiatric Advance Directive (PAD) for their family to keep so that their medical information is easily accessible in the event of a run-in with the law.

Download the entire report here.

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