Impact of Mental Illness in the Justice System


Being incarcerated may be a critical moment for someone with mental illness. The common overlooked or untreated symptoms and behaviors may have led the individual into the justice system. Screening at the moment of intake may make a huge difference in the mental health trajectory of the individual.

2 million people with mental illness are newly incarcerated each year.

Recent findings show that there are 10 times more individuals with serious mental illness in prisons and jails than in state mental hospitals.

Upon release from the justice system, there is inadequate mental health screening. Without proper screening and acknowledgment of mental illness, an individual may not have access to mental healthcare and the necessary resources to afford treatment.

A criminal record will often make it hard for a newly released individual to find employment or housing. As a result, many become homeless, find themselves hospitalized, or are rearrested

Up to 83% of inmates with mental illness did not have access to treatment after release

In a recent outcome study, 64% of inmates with mental illness released from prison were rearrested within 18 months, and 48% were hospitalized within the same time period.


National Alliance on Mental Illness. Jailing people with mental illness. 2019.

Torrey EF, Zdanowicz MT, Kennard AD, et al. The treatment of persons with mental illness in prisons and jails: a state survey. Arlington, VA: Treatment Advocacy Center, April 8, 2014.

Al-Rousan T, Rubenstein L, Sieleni B, Deol H, Wallace RB. Inside the nation’s largest mental health institution: a prevalence study in a state prison system. BMC Public Health. 2017;17(342).

Lovell D, Gagliardi GJ, Peterson PD. Recidivism and use of services among persons with mental illness after release from prison. Psychiatr Serv. 2002;53(10):1290-1296.

World Health Organization. Gender and women’s mental health. 2019.

Child Mind Institute. 2016 Child Mind Institute Children’s Mental Health Report. 2016.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s