An Imprisoned Mind: Reporting on Mental Health and Criminal Justice System


Decades of reduced budgets for community mental health programs and state hospitals, paired with “tough on crime” legislation and “War on Drugs” policies, have effectively criminalized mental illness. For the majority of the justice-involved population struggling with mental illness, however, state and local correctional institutions are the only places where they can expect to receive some form of treatment, however minimal.

Twenty- five U.S. journalists from print, online and broadcast outlets were awarded reporting fellowships to attend the workshops on May 4th and 5th at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and to participate in a year-long reporting project around this topic.

They were joined by some of the nation's foremost experts from the corrections, academic and advocacy communities, including: Anne MacLeod, Program Director, Houston Crisis Intervention; Robert Trestman, Executive Director, University of Connecticut Health Center Correctional Care; Jeremy Shocket, Chief, Trial Bureau, Bronx District Attorney; and Laura Usher, National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Renetta and Stephen Torres spoke about their 27-year-old son Christopher was suffering from schizophrenia when he was killed by police officers in April 2011 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Fellows spent the second day of the workshop visiting the supportive housing units of the Fortune Society, one of New York City’s largest not for profit focusing on reentry programs. Journalists toured the housing units and spoke to residents and staff members about challenges facing people with mental illness returning from jail or prison the community.

The full conference program can be found here.

The unique health and criminal justice journalism fellowships, now in their second year, are organized by John Jay's Center on Media, Crime and Justice (CMCJ), and supported by the Langeloth Foundation. The Fellows were selected from a wide pool of applicants based on editors' recommendations, and will receive financial assistance or stipends that enable them to attend the conference and related activities.

A fellowship announcing the fellows and their affiliations can be found here.

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