Mentally ill persons in the criminal justice system: some perspectives

Psychiatr Q. Summer 2004;75(2):107-26. doi: 10.1023/b:psaq.0000019753.63627.2c.


There is an increasing number of severely mentally ill persons in the criminal justice system. This article first discusses the criminalization of persons with severe mental illness and its causes, the role of the police and mental health, and the treatment of mentally ill offenders and its difficulties. The authors then offer recommendations to reduce criminalization by increased coordination between police and mental health professionals, to increase mental health training for police officers, to enhance mental health services after arrest, and to develop more and better community treatment of mentally ill offenders. The necessary components of such treatment are having a treatment philosophy of both theory and practice; having clear goals of treatment; establishing a close liaison between treatment staff and the justice system; understanding the need for structure; having a focus on managing violence; and appreciating the crucial role of case management, appropriate living arrangements, and the role of family members.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Community Mental Health Services / organization & administration
  • Criminal Law / statistics & numerical data*
  • Deinstitutionalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Police
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology