Almost two million youth are arrested in the U.S. every year. Of these youth, 70% have a mental health condition. Many end up in the system simply because they need mental health services and can’t access them in their community.
Yet while in custody, many don’t receive the treatment they need. They end up getting worse, not better. While detained, these adolescents are kept from their families who they need the most.
Solitary confinement is disproportionately used in correctional facilities for youth with severe psychiatric symptoms. Solitary confinement causes extreme suffering and can make the illness worse. Placing juveniles in solitary confinement can permanently impact development and increases risk of suicide. Youth in custody have a four times greater risk of suicide than their peers.
Once they have entered the criminal justice system, they are likely to stay in it. Rearrest rates are as high as 75% within three years after confinement.
Where NAMI Stands
NAMI believes that everyone should have access to mental health care. Every community must have access to an appropriate crisis response system. Law enforcement intervention should be used as a last resort.
If detained, adolescents should never be kept with adults. There should be options for diversion to treatment and continued support during and after confinement.
NAMI opposes the use of solitary confinement for persons with mental illnesses.
What NAMI Is Doing
NAMI partners with youth-serving agencies and criminal justice leaders to ensure that youth with mental health treatment needs get the support they need to stay out of jail. Those involved in nonviolent offenses should be diverted into effective home and community-based treatment programs.
The Stepping Up Initiative
The Stepping Up Initiative, an exciting national campaign to challenge counties to reduce the number of people with mental illness in jails. NAMI joins other national organizations calling on counties and communities nationwide to address this problem.
Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) and Other Local Programs
NAMI Affiliates around the country partner with local law enforcement on crisis intervention team (CIT) programs to help police recognize a mental health problem and get people to treatment. We also work on a variety of jail diversion programs, re-entry programs, and provide education and support to individuals and families at risk of involvement it the justice system.