APA has been advocating for prison reforms that aim to reduce high recidivism rates, including humane and effective programming for seriously mentally ill offenders.
In December, for example, APA and the National Association of Social Workers launched the Consensus Workgroup on Behavioral Health Issues in Criminal Justice, a coalition of 16 organizations that will work collaboratively on policy, research and practice issues related to the role of behavioral health in criminal justice. The event, held at APA headquarters, featured such top speakers as Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and representatives from federal and state prisons, the New York City jail system and the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as homeless service providers and a former inmate.
Last year, APA urged Congress to approve funding for 130 new psychology and mental health staff positions in the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Some of those positions would be aimed specifically at improving restrictive housing conditions for inmates with serious mental illness, including creating more secure mental health step-down units staffed by psychologists and other mental health workers.
"Far too many Americans receive the physical, mental and behavioral health care they need only after they become involved in the criminal justice system," says APA Senior Policy Associate Micah Haskell-Hoehl. "We need to ensure and sustain the best outcomes for these individuals and for society."—Tori DeAngelis
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