The Next Step for the Justice Reinvestment Initiative: Making Mental Health a Priority
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The criminal justice system in the United States was not created to treat mentally ill people. Despite this fact, the number of seriously mentally ill people in prisons and jails now exceeds the number in state psychiatric hospitals by tenfold. At the same time, the epidemic of mass incarceration in the United States has become one of the most pressing economic and social problems our country has faced in the last three decades. One novel approach to reducing prison populations and lowering costs to taxpayers has been justice reinvestment. However, for justice reinvestment to meet its ultimate goal of reducing incarceration rates, saving tax payer dollars, and creating safer communities, the JRI must begin to focus more attention and resources on how to better address the unique needs of the mentally ill in the criminal justice system.