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How can the criminal justice system address mental health?

People who face criminal charges often have mental health challenges. Unfortunately, the criminal justice system does not always address mental health. When underlying issues are not dealt with, criminal offenders are likely to repeat, which is a costly cycle.

The problem of mental illness is one that all courts should be prepared to handle. Around 64 percent of inmates in jails suffer from mental health issues, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics. Identifying mental health problems early in the court process can help individuals get the services they need.

Diversion programs and special courts

One way the criminal justice system is dealing with mental-health issues is through alternative programs like drug court or mental health court. Defendants who need help, get it, while still being punished for their crimes. These alternatives can reduce recidivism. Many individuals who go through these programs go on to lead productive lives and stay out of trouble.

Treatment programs during incarceration

Many inmates receive treatment when they are incarcerated. One out of six in jail and one out of three in state prisons get treatment while they are behind bars. People who receive treatment usually are more successful at reintegration into society.

Sometimes inmates continue to receive mental-health services after they are released. This can help them as they adjust to a new way of life.

For criminal defendants, dealing with a mental-health issue can be difficult. Being honest about mental-health needs can result in receiving much-needed services.

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