Mental health and criminal justice policy framework

The 2011–2012 annual report, Correctional Investigator of Canada showed that 36% of federal offenders needed psychiatric or psychological support. It also showed that 45% of male inmates and 69% of female inmates were hospitalized for a mental health issue. This overrepresentation of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system is often referred to as the “criminalization” of mental illness.

Mental Health and Criminal Justice Policy Framework is a report by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health that provides an overview of:

  • The causes of the criminalization of mental illness, how this can be prevented.
  • The role of police officers related to the apprehension of people with mental issues and their diversion away from the justice system
  • The benefits of mental health courts and post-charge diversion programs
  • Recent changes to Canada’s “Not Criminally Responsible” system.
  • The corrections system’s approach to dealing with people with mental health issues.

The report also outlines principles for a comprehensive Canadian approach to mental health and criminal justice and examples of actions that result from these principles.

EENet has developed a Research Report Round-up of the report, “Mental Health and Criminal Justice Policy Framework.” Research Report Round-ups are brief summaries of research reports, presented in a user-friendly format.

Read it below or download the PDF.

Title and link to report: Mental Health and Criminal Justice Policy Framework 

Author: Roslyn Shields, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Year of report: 2013

Location: Toronto

Population addressed: Persons with mental illness
Language: English

What this report is about

The 2011–2012 annual report by the Correctional Investigator of Canada showed that 36% of federal offenders needed psychiatric or psychological support. It also showed that 45% of male inmates and 69% of female inmates were hospitalized for a mental health issue. This overrepresentation of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system is often referred to as the “criminalization” of mental illness. 

This report provides an overview of:

  • The causes of the criminalization of mental illness, how this can be prevented.
  • The role of police officers related to the apprehension of people with mental issues and their diversion away from the justice system
  • The benefits of mental health courts and post-charge diversion programs
  • Recent changes to Canada’s “Not Criminally Responsible” system.
  • The corrections system’s approach to dealing with people with mental health issues.

The report also outlines principles for a comprehensive Canadian approach to mental health and criminal justice and examples of actions that result from these principles:

  • Canadians should have access to prevention and intervention programs that reduce the likelihood of involvement with the criminal justice system.
  • People with mental illness who commit criminal offenses should have opportunities to be diverted from the criminal justice system to the mental health system.
  • People with mental illness who commit offenses should have access to high quality, culturally appropriate mental health care.
  • Treatment and rehabilitation of offenders with mental illness should be part of the correctional system’s core mandate and philosophy.
  • People with mental illness in the criminal justice system should be treated with respect and dignity and their safety paramount.
  • Laws, policies and programs should encourage integration between the criminal justice system and mental health system to enhance access to services, improve quality of care and facilitate transitions between systems
  • Government decisions and legislation should be based on evidence and best practices and research in the area should be supported 

 

Key words: Mental illness, criminalization, corrections, justice, court, diversion, treatment, support, rehabilitation, policy

Contact person/source:
Roslyn Shields

CAMH Senior Policy Analyst

roslyn [dot] shields [at] camh [dot] ca

416 535-8501 x32129