Prison Fellowship believes each person impacted by crime and incarceration has intrinsic value and the capacity for change. We believe a restorative approach is the key to building a better criminal justice system. To that end, we have defined a justice framework to guide our nation's efforts to reform our ineffective, expensive, and broken criminal justice system, and we support legislation that upholds the principles of our framework.
Key Sponsors and Status: Introduced by Senator Al Franken (D-MN) in the Senate and Representative Doug Collins (R-GA) in the House.
What it Does:
- Continues support for mental health courts and crisis intervention teams, both of which save lives and money.
- Includes new grant accountability measures and emphasizes the use of evidence-based practices that have been proven effective through empirical evidence.
- Provides grants for prisons and jails to develop alternatives to solitary confinement and conduct mental health screenings and treatment for people placed in isolation.
- Authorizes investments in veterans treatment courts, which serve arrested veterans who suffer from PTSD, substance addiction, and other mental health conditions.
- Supports state and local efforts to identify people with mental health conditions at each point in the criminal justice system in order to appropriately direct them to mental health services.
- Supports the development of curricula for police academies and orientations.
- Supports the development of programs to train federal law enforcement officers in how to respond appropriately to incidents involving a person with a mental health condition.
- Increases focus on corrections-based programs, like transitional services that reduce recidivism rates and screening practices that identify inmates with mental health conditions.
- Gives local officials greater control over program participation eligibility.
How it Advances Our Values: Men and women struggling with mental illness are made in the image of God, and each of their lives has value and dignity. The Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act seeks to provide accountability along with the care and support their conditions demand. The act also promotes public safety by properly referring those with mental health issues to health care professionals who can help prevent future criminal behavior; and just process and proportional punishment by providing more appropriate accountability for these men and women. It also promises to create a more constructive prison culture where the mentally ill are not held in a system that is unequipped to provide care for them.
How You Can Take Action: Write your House representative to urge him or her to bring the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act to a vote. Our online advocacy tool provides an easy way to make sure your voice is heard by Congress. If you want to make even more impact, call or set up a meeting with your Representative to tell them why the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act matters to you.
Prison Fellowship's Work on Behalf of Those with Mental Illness: Prison Fellowship works in coalition with hundreds of other organizations in support of the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act. We have a joined a national sign-on letter and our policy team has met with Congressional offices urging them to cosponsor the bill. In February 2014,Craig DeRoche, Prison Fellowship's Senior Vice President for Advocacy & Public Policy, testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, encouraging the senators to consider alternatives to solitary confinement for those with mental illness and pointed to the legislation as a way to equip prisons to do so. A transcript of his remarks is available here.