Republished with permission.
Executive Director, The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Ohio (NAMI Ohio).
This is the fourth article in a series about effectively dealing with mental ill offenders in the criminal justice system. Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Supreme Court of Ohio, has had a longtime interest in developing solutions to this problem and has formed the Supreme Court of Ohio Advisory Committee on Mentally Ill in the Courts for the purpose. This fourth article, written by a member of that committee, addresses NAMI Ohio's contribution to this issue via the development of a training program for jails and court personnel.
The need for training and education programs for jails and court personnel is widely recognized and documented. We know that a significant percentage of inmates in jails are suffering from serious mental illness, and many are involved in the criminal justice system due to the deinstitutionalization of thousands of mentally ill persons released from state hospitals over the past 40 years.
There is a general acknowledgment that the courts are inundated with a number of misdemeanor cases that are a direct result of mental illness and not because of an intent to break the law.
Over the past year, NAMI Ohio has developed a training program designed to equip front line staff in jails and courts as they deal with this growing problem. This training program addresses the problems created over the past 40 years within the criminal justice system of Ohio as related to the transition from state mental hospitals as primary facilities for treatment and housing of citizens with brain disorders, to a community- based mental health system. This problem has accelerated since the passage of the Mental Health Act of 1988.
This training program will have a major impact in lessening the burden on a criminal justice system dealing with difficult-to-treat citizens with brain disorders. This training delivers a comprehensive training curriculum to jails and court personnel to assist them in identifying and dealing more effectively with this unique population.
This effort recognizes that personnel working within the criminal justice system are often insufficiently trained in how to deal with persons whose disruptive, bizarre, and/or criminal behavioral may be due to their Page 1034 mental illness. Because of the shift to community-based treatment and...