Criminal Justice System: Bridging The Gap

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Bridging the Gap
Law enforcement officers are gradually becoming the ones responding to people in a mental crisis. Unfortunately several law enforcements do not have the adequate training to handle these situations thus resulting in excessive use of force, arrest or incarceration. For this reason I am promoting “Bridging the Gap”, a week long program where officers will be properly trained to handle these situations.
Why is this an important issue?
Mental illness has been known to be a major cause of homelessness with 150,000 to 200,000 of the 744,000 homeless populations having untreated psychiatric illnesses (Markowitz, 2006). Homeless people are one of the largest groups of people police officers encounter who have mental health problems.
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In a recent study by Metraux and Culhane of 7,022 homeless adults living in New York 23% had been incarcerated in a state prison or city jail (2006). According to NAMI there were approximately “70,000 prisoners in 2000 who were actively psychotic” and the local jail population increased by 5.4% between 2001 and 2002. It has also been seen that mental illness is an issues for police. According to a 2013 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center and national Sheriff’s Association 58% of shootings by San Francisco police involve a person with a mental illness (Torrey, 2013). Unfortunately there are not federal statistics on police shootings involving mental ill people but it is estimated that 375 to 500 people shot and killed by police involve a person with a mental health problem (Bouchard, 2012).
Who is classified as a Mentally Ill Person?
According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual 4th edition mental illness refers to disorders characterized by dysregulation of mood, thought, and/or behavior. Approximately 61.5 million Americans experience an episodic crisis in a year (NAMI). That is one in four adults who experience anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, etc. throughout the year. About 13.6 million Americans live with serious mental illness and that includes schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder (NAMI).
Are Police
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Crisis Intervention Team was developed to promote effective interactions between law enforcement, mental health care providers, individuals with mental illness, families and community (citinternational.org). The main purpose for CIT is to provide quality training for officers making them able to respond immediately and effectively to psychiatric crisis calls. CIT provides officers with 40 hour comprehensive trainings emphasizing on mental health topics, crisis resolution skills, and access to community based services (Dupont, 2007). The training introduces officers to mental health facilities which encourage the interaction officers and a mentally ill person. During CIT’s training police officers also receive dispatch training which explains the proper way to receive and dispatch crisis calls (Dupont, 2007). Most importantly police officers receive a course in psychological disorders and medication along with nonverbal cues (Bale & Emslie,

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