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Treatment Not Jail

Approximately 45 percent of people in our Supervised Release Program are flagged for potential mental health needs and about 16 percent of people currently held in Rikers Island jails have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness. These numbers highlight the disproportionate representation of those with mental health needs who get caught up in the justice system. 

For those with mental illness, treatment is better than jail. Mental illness and confinement have been conjoined for far too long; we’re long overdue to break the cycle. 

The threat of incarceration is often used as the “stick” to ensure people’s meaningful participation. Our new research brief, ‘The Myth of Legal Leverage?’ explains that treatment can still be effective by maximizing the use of evidence-based practices, building strong therapeutic relationships, and engaging in procedural justice. More important than legal leverage is the quality of the human interaction that accompanies treatment; in fact, leverage, if it leads to a court mandate that is too onerous, can increase the risk of recidivism by interfering with important protective factors in a person’s life, from school and work to family obligations. 

Our approach to mental wellness focuses on identifying the individual needs of the person and addressing underlying issues with evidence-based, trauma-informed practices, whether working with clients in a court-based setting, with people just-released from incarceration, or in the community⁠.
And now, with the ever-changing reality of COVID-19, it's more important than ever to support those in need. At the Center, we're continuing this crucial work by using virtual tools to offer our participants counseling, group sessions, and referrals.   
Learn more about our mental health work

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Center for Court Innovation
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