"Over the past 50 years [America has] gone from institutionalizing people with mental illnesses, often in subhuman conditions, [in state mental health hospitals] to incarcerating them at unprecedented and appalling rates—putting recovery out of reach for millions of Americans….
Mental Health America (MHA) supports maximum diversion from the criminal justice system for all persons accused of crimes for whom voluntary mental health or substance use treatment is a reasonable alternative to confinement or other criminal sanctions. MHA urges the utilization of diversion programs at the earliest possible phase of the criminal process, preferably before booking or arraignment. Conversely, MHA supports minimizing the use or threat of use of criminal sanctions to compel mental health treatment.
Mental health courts have been created in numerous jurisdictions across the United States, largely as a response to the increasing number of defendants with serious mental health conditions (“mental illnesses”) who are caught up in the criminal justice system. Mental Health America (MHA):
Mental Health America (MHA) supports the ongoing availability of the not guilty by reason of insanity plea (hereinafter, “insanity defense”) and opposes “guilty but insane” laws which preclude the use of the insanity defense. Specifically, MHA supports the American Law Institute Model Penal Code Standards (described below). In addition to the legal nuances, a critical issue in the use of the insanity defense is ensuring that individuals whose cases are decided on this basis are hospitalized and provided appropr
Mental Health America (MHA) opposes sentences of life without parole for juvenile offenders. Such sentences are inconsistent with any of the purposes which ordinarily guide sentencing: deterrence, retribution, incapacitation or rehabilitation.
At least seventeen states have passed various versions of what has come to be called "sexual predator" legislation. These laws provide for indefinite involuntary commitment of sex offenders to mental health treatment facilities after they complete prison terms for serious sex offenses.
Our current system of criminal justice inadequately addresses the complexity of cases involving criminal defendants with mental health conditions. Therefore, Mental Health America (MHA) calls upon states to suspend using the death penalty until more just, accurate and systematic ways of determining guilt and considering a defendant's mental status are developed.
Mental Health America (MHA) places a high priority on the care of children and youth (“children”) with behavioral problems reflecting mental, emotional and substance use conditions (“mental health conditions”). Mental health services can both prevent children with mental health conditions from committing offenses that result in juvenile justice scrutiny and from re-offending.