Senate Passes the Reauthorization of the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act
On September 26, 2008, the U.S. Senate passed the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Reauthorization and Improvement Act, S. 2304. The bill is expected to be taken up in the House this weekend for final approval and then be sent to the President for his signature.
S. 2304 reauthorizes the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA) for an additional five years at $50 million per year. The bill also expands training for law enforcement to identify and respond appropriately to individuals with mental illnesses and supports the development of law enforcement receiving centers to assess individuals in custody for mental health and substance abuse treatment needs. MIOTCRA, PL 108-414, created the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Grant Program (JMHCP) in 2004 to help states and counties design and implement collaborative efforts between criminal justice and mental health systems.
“Senator Kennedy understands that far too often individuals are arrested and subjected to the criminal justice system, when what they really need is treatment and support to overcome mental illness or substance abuse disorders. His bipartisan bill provides strong federal support for helping local communities address this crisis and improve treatment outcomes for mentally ill offenders,” said Anthony Coley, spokesman for Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA). “He commends Senator Domenici for his leadership on this bill and on so many other initiatives to improve our nation's mental health system. He also welcomes the leadership of Representatives Bobby Scott and Randy Forbes on this needed legislation.”
People with mental illnesses are overrepresented in all parts of the criminal justice system -- in their contact with law enforcement, in the courts, in jails and prisons, and in parole and probation caseloads across the country. Prevalence estimates of serious mental illnesses in correctional facilities range from 7 to 16 percent, or rates four times higher for men and eight times higher for women than found in the general population. The U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that the prevalence of youth with mental disorders in juvenile justice facilities is even higher. In many cases, these individuals are not violent criminals, but rather low-level offenders. In addition, it typically costs far more to treat individuals with serious mental illnesses in jail or prison than it does in community-based settings.
“I have witnessed the challenges associated with mentally ill offenders who are part of the criminal justice system, and I believe resources are necessary to help local law enforcement and the judicial system implement appropriate measures to address these offenders,” said Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), “Senator Kennedy worked hard to get this bill moving, and I am pleased the Senate has approved it.”
The JMHCP program provides assistance to states and communities to develop new programs or expand existing programs that can both reduce costs and help individuals with mental illnesses in contact with the criminal justice system return to productive lives. The program has helped states and local governments implement and expand mental health courts, law enforcement training, mental health and substance abuse treatment for incarcerated mentally ill offenders, community reentry services, and cross-training of criminal justice and mental health personnel.
The Council of State Governments Justice Center coordinates the Criminal Justice/Mental Health Consensus Project, an unprecedented, national effort to help local, state, and federal policymakers and criminal justice and mental health professionals improve the response to people with mental illnesses who come into contact with the criminal justice system.
For more information on the reauthorization of the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Reauthorization and Improvement Act, contact Leah Kane.
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