The current configuration and function of U.S. societal structures drives the overrepresentation of people with serious mental illness in the criminal legal system. Although the causes are multifactorial, the mental health system poorly serves those at highest risk of criminal legal system involvement. The growth of the mental health evidence base regarding the social determinants of mental health has ushered in greater understanding of their central role in the promotion and maintenance of mental illness and health. These academic strides, however, have failed to translate into widespread care and payment policy changes. Additionally, as is the case in the criminal legal system, structural racism shapes people’s experiences in the mental health care system, contributing to inequitable mental health outcomes for persons with severe mental illness from racial and ethnic minority groups. This is a critical consideration for the population involved in the criminal legal system: Black and Brown people make up more than half of those incarcerated in the United States (despite comprising just 32% of the total population). In the absence of an intersectional, antiracist, structurally informed approach, any attempt by the mental health care system to stem the overrepresentation of people with serious mental illness in the criminal legal system will fail. This article provides an overview of the current mental health care system’s shortcomings in serving this population. It proposes concrete steps to address these shortcomings, with a special focus on race and social determinants of health.
Sarah Vinson and Andrea L. Dennis,
Systemic, Racial Justice-Informed Solutions to Shift "Care" From the Criminal Legal System to the Mental Health Care System
, 72 Psychiatric Services 1428
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/fac_artchop/1479