Helping Mentally Ill Criminals

Source: Donna Lyons, State Legislatures, Vol. 33 no. 4, April 2007
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Jailing offenders with mental illness serves no one, but new policies are bringing about needed changes.

The deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill in the 1960s was designed to care for those with acute mental health needs in the community instead of in state-run asylums. But the movement to be more compassionate and cost-effective in treating those with mental illness has had a down side. In the generation since many state mental hospitals closed and treatment approaches shifted to the community, many people with serious mental illnesses have failed to get the treatment they need. For some, that means homelessness and crime, and advocates now decry what they call the “criminalization of the mentally ill.”

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