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

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An Imprisoned Mind: Reporting on Mental Health and Criminal Justice Systemimprisoned mind

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 4-5, 2015 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.

Fellows Stories

Snohomish County mental health court offers a way out of the web of despai
Diana Hefley, Herald Net
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St. Louis jail system’s longest-serving inmate illustrates mental health needs
Jesse Bogan, St. Louis Post Dispatch
Read the full story »
Prison is latest challenge for Missouri man struggling to fit in
Jesse Bogan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Read the full story »
Breakdown: State’s prison mental health system faces long recovery
Edith Brady-Lunny, Pantagraph.com
Read the full story »
Lost Boys: Undocumented Youth Face Perilous Journey Through Justice System
Yvette Cabrera, Voice of OC
Read the full story »
SPECIAL REPORT: Police learn new way of dealing with the mentally ill
Heather Yakin, Times Herald-Record
Read the full story »
Special Report: Chance for mental health behind bars
Heather Yakin, Times Herald-Record
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Michael’s story: Mentally ill man attacks his family after being deserted by Pa. health care
Daniel Simmons-Ritchie , PennLive.com
Read the full story »
‘I couldn’t stand the way I felt in my head’: Mentally ill man languishes in prison due to group home shortage
Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, PennLive.com
Read the full story »
Five Years After Brutal Murder, Napa Hospital Seeks to Balance Treatment With Security
Scott Shafer, KQED
Read the full story »
‘Left to rot in jails’: ACLU sues Pa. over year-long delays to treat mentally ill defendants
Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, PennLive.com
Read the full story »
Long, Dangerous Wait for Hospital Beds for Those Incompetent to Stand Trial
Scott Shafer, KQED
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Deep Dive into California’s Mental Hospitals Reveals More Questions Than Answers
Scott Shafer, KQED
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Pa. state prisons transform mental health care, but is it working?
Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, PennLive.com
Read the full story »
11 ideas to fix Pa.’s broken mental health care system
Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, PennLive.com
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An unusual insanity plea highlights the limits of state mental health services
Jesse Bogan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Read the full story »
A mentally ill woman with 111 cats challenges the justice system
Diana Hefley, The Daily Herald
Read the full story »

Resources from the Conference

“They didn’t have to die” Video on practices in shooting deaths at Albuquerque, New Mexico police department. Download file
Facts, Myths, Stereotypes: Covering News of Mental Illness and Recovery
Download file
Improving Responses to People with Mental Illnesses
Download file

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