Eleven members of the U.S. House of Representatives have agreed to
cosponsor the "Mentally Ill Offender and Crime Reduction Act of
Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio) introduced the bill (HR 2387) in June 2003.
The Senate passed it by unanimous consent in October 2003, immediately after
release of a report by Human Rights Watch titled "Ill-Equipped: U.S.
Prisons and Offenders With Mental Illness" (Psychiatric News,
December 5, 2003).
APA is supporting the bill, which would provide grants to create or expand
mental health courts, train correctional officers and others to identify
symptoms of mental illness, promote cooperative efforts to treat mental
illness and substance abuse, and promote intergovernmental cooperation among
prisoners with mental illness.
In February, APA President Marcia Goin, M.D., convened a conference on
jail-diversion programs whose theme was the fiscal result of criminalization
of people with mental illness (see
page 4; also,
Psychiatric News, March 19). The conference was co-chaired by APA
Presidentelect Steven Sharfstein, M.D., in conjunction with APA's
Corresponding Committee on Jails and Prisons.
Committee Chair Henry Weinstein, M.D., said that committee members are
working with the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and the Council of
State Governments to develop cost data and analyses that convince legislators
that it is cost-effective, as well as humane, to provide access to
high-quality, community-based mental health services whose goal is to minimize
unnecessary incarceration of people with mental illness. ▪