National Institute of Corrections
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About Corrections & Mental Health Update

Morris Thigpen In recent years, an increasing number of persons with mental illness, including those who have co-occurring substance abuse disorders, have come into contact with the criminal justice system. Some estimates suggest that as many as two million men and women with mental health problems are involved with our country's community corrections, jail, and prison systems.

The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) is highly concerned with the health and mental well-being both of those who work diligently in community corrections, jails, and prisons and of those who are under correctional care, custody, and supervision, whether they are pretrial detainees, probationers, jail inmates, state or federal prisoners, or parolees.

Since its inception in the early 1970s, NIC has paid close attention to mental health issues. For many years, for example, we funded the quarterly publication of the Jail Suicide/Mental Health Update, which Lindsay Hayes originated in the late 1980s and edited skillfully until 2008. NIC also funded the National Mental Health Association's work in preparing an important practice-oriented monograph, Effective Prison Mental Health Services: Guidelines to Expand and Improve Treatment, which was published in 2004. Other recent publications completed with NIC support include a study on the Prevalence of Serious Mental Illness Among Jail Inmates and a monograph on Improving Responses to People with Mental Illnesses: The Essential Elements of Specialized Probation Initiatives. These specific efforts, and others like them, are augmented through NIC's onsite technical assistance and the informational resources available through the NIC Information Center.

Indeed, mental health issues are among NIC's highest priorities. In 2005, the NIC Advisory Board met in Ohio, a state that has been actively improving its correctional mental health care, to designate "people with mental illness under the supervision of the correctional system" as one its two priority areas. More recently, in April 2010, NIC convened a national meeting of chief mental health officers of state correctional departments to establish a regular communications network and to map out directions for future movement in improving correctional mental health care.

Since Jail Suicide/Mental Health Update ceased publication in 2008, NIC has been urged to broaden and continue its coverage of mental health issues.   In Corrections & Mental Health, NIC is pleased to continue its outreach both to correctional practitioners and to those working in mental health services. With this update, we hope to provide information that helps the men and women passing through the criminal justice system have successful, safe, and integrated lives within their local communities.

Morris L. Thigpen, Director
National Institute of Corrections

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This blog is funded by a contract from the National Institute of Corrections, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view or opinions stated in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.