Improve mental health screenings for the incarcerated

Parity, Coverage, & Equitable Access
Diverse Workforce
social determinants of health
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Legal System-Involved Individuals
Coverage & Standards
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Federal department
house committees
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senate committees
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Evidence-based screening, assessment, and treatment, including psychosocial and pharmacological treatments, should be adopted in jails and prisons. Correctional officers should be trained on de-escalation and safety measures in situations involving an inmate in a mental health crisis. To improve the care within jails and prisons, the Department of Justice (DOJ) should issue guidance and model policies and practices for state and local governments, as well as implement such policies and practices within federal facilities.[1]


The number of incarcerated individuals with mental health and substance use disorders (MH/SUD) continues to increase, and conditions in correctional facilities are known to only exacerbate MH/SUD.[2] Screening and assessment, treatment, and case planning is critical to identifying and meeting individuals’ MH/SUD needs and help with reentry upon release.[3] Correctional officers need training on MH/SUD and how to assist individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.[4] Policies and practices should be developed and implemented to improve the ability of correctional facilities and staff to screen, assess, and treat individuals experiencing an MH/SUD crisis.[1]


1. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Consensus Workgroup Policy Recommendations to the 116th Congress and Trump Administration on Behavioral Health Issues in the Criminal Justice System: Next Steps. Last Updated 2019.

2. Mental Health America. Position Statement 56: Mental Health Treatment in Correctional Facilities. Last Updated March 7, 2015.

3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Screening and Assessment of Co-Occurring Disorders in the Justice System. Last Updated June 2019.

4. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Correctional Officers De-escalation Education (CODE).  (n.d.)