the released

Resources & Readings

Reentering Society/Recidivism

Grading the States: 2009
According to this recent National Alliance on Mental Illness study, the nationwide grade for mental health care for those who are seriously ill is a “D.” Find out your state’s ranking.

Breaking the Tragic Cycle
From the companion site to FRONTLINE’s 2005 report, The New Asylums, on mentally ill inmates, here are some examples of programs designed to help prisoners reenter society.

Compassion, Compulsion and the Mentally Ill
Dr. E. Fuller Torrey’s June 2008 Wall Street Journal opinion piece on the legacy of deinstitutionalization and its link to the statistics on violent crimes committed by untreated mentally ill people.

Understanding and Preventing Criminal Recidivism Among Adults With Psychotic Disorders
Writing in the June 2007 issue of Psychiatric Services, Dr. J. Steven Lamberti lays out the current strategies for treating severely mentally ill people in the community, explains the risk factors particular to the population, and proposes a framework for breaking the cycle of recidivism.

Reentry Policy Council: Reentry and Mental Health
Includes links to relevant sections of the council’s report on released prisoners and additional resources, including this report (PDF file) on how four states help mentally ill prisoners enroll for Social Security and Medicaid benefits.

Mentally Ill a Threat in Nursing Homes
A 2009 Associated Press article on how inappropriate housing placements for severely mentally ill people can have deadly consequences.
This site offers an overview of the disease, plus dozens of related topics. Started by a man as a memorial to his brother who was schizophrenic, it’s a popular discussion forum for people diagnosed with the illness, as well as for families, significant others, caregivers and friends.


The Second Chance Act
A federal law passed in 2008 that provides grants to agencies and nonprofits to help released prisoners. This page from the Reentry Policy Council lays out funding opportunities under the act. The council also has another page tracking other state and federal legislation.

National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009
Introduced in March 2009 by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.), the act would establish a commission to study the U.S. prison system and recommend reforms. Webb lists the number of mentally ill prisoners as one of his top reasons for proposing the legislation.

Treatment Advocacy Center: In Your State
Click on your state to learn about the laws governing treatment of the mentally ill. The center advocates laws allowing assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) for the mentally ill, similar to New York’s 1999 Kendra’s Law, named for a woman pushed in front of a subway train by a mentally ill man who was not receiving treatment.

Mental Illness & Criminal Justice

The New Asylums
This companion Web site to FRONTLINE’s 2005 report on the imprisoned mentally ill offers resources on the issue. The full program can be viewed online.

Reversing Criminalization
Dr. H. Richard Lamb’s editorial in The American Journal of Psychiatry explores the idea that deinstitutionalization has criminalized severely mentally ill people and explains the web of community treatment resources that must be in place for diversion programs to be effective. (January 2009)

De-Criminalizing Mental Illness
Time magazine examines the mental health issue from the law enforcement perspective, looking at police training that aims to sensitize officers to mental illness. (Aug. 8, 2007)

Compassion, Compulsion and the Mentally Ill
Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, whose book on deinstitutionalization is excerpted on The New Asylums Web site, writes about the continuing problem in this Wall Street Journal editorial. (June 9, 2008)

Mental Health Courts

How Special Courts Can Serve Justice and Help Mentally Ill Offenders
U.S. News and World Report visits the Allegheny County Mental Health Court featured in FRONTLINE’s The Released. (Feb. 7, 2008)

Using Tax Dollars to Turn Lives Around Is Money Well-Spent
Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, who made his name profiling a homeless schizophrenic classical musician (his story is now a movie -- The Soloist) visits two of L.A.’s mental health courts. (March 15, 2009)

A Worthy Diversion
Another profile of the Allegheny County Mental Health Court, this one from the American Prospect and written by the co-author of a 2003 Human Rights Watch study on the mentally ill in prison. (June 23, 2008)

A New Justice System for the Mentally Ill
A FRONTLINE article describing the inner workings and rationale behind mental health courts. It’s from our 2005 report, The New Asylums.

A Strategy That Works
This Psychiatric News article summarizes several studies on the effectiveness of mental health courts in reducing recidivism. Includes links to the three studies mentioned, including this Rand Corporation report on the Allegheny County Mental Health Court. (Sept. 21, 2007)

A Primer for Policymakers and Practitioners (PDF file)
Even though this report is aimed at professionals, it lays out the basics of mental health courts with a minimum of jargon. A product of the Consensus Project, whose Web site has a page dedicated to mental health courts.

Intervention Fact Sheet: Mental Health Courts (PDF file)
A fact sheet from the Rutgers Center for Behavioral Science & Criminal Justice Research that looks at the difficulties in evaluating the effectiveness of mental health courts.

Allegheny County Mental Health Court
The Web site of the court featured in The Released -- part of the Allegheny County [Penn.] Department of Human Services -- lays out how the court works and links to several PDFs, including a 2004 report on the court's first two years in operation and a testimonial from an inmate in the program.

posted april 28, 2009

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