Vera Institute of Justice
First-Episode Incarceration: Creating a Recovery-Informed Framework for Integrated Mental Health and Criminal Justice Responses
There is growing public recognition that the number of people diagnosed with serious mental illness in the U.S. criminal justice system has reached unprecedented levels. In 2007, there were more than 2 million jail bookings of people with serious mental illness.
Although prevalence estimates of serious mental illness in jails and prisons vary widely depending on methodology and setting (jail or prison), recent research estimates that approximately 15 percent of men and nearly one-third of women in jail settings have a serious mental illness and that rates of serious mental illness in state prison populations are at least two to four times higher than community populations.
This reality places a significant strain on institutional and community resources, including increased expenditures on incarceration. And it sheds light on why so many formerly incarcerated people face daunting prospects for successfully reintegrating into society. Seeking to mitigate these corrosive outcomes, local and state governments have developed a range of programs over the past two decades to serve people with serious mental illness in contact with the criminal justice system.