U.S. Senate Passes Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act

Schizophrenia Update, January 2004


(New York, November 5, 2003) Human Rights Watch welcomes the U.S. Senate’s passage on October 29, 2003 of the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act. Introduced in the Senate by Senator Mike Dewine (R-Ohio), the bipartisan bill was cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Pete Domenici (R-NM), Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). The legislation authorizes federal grants to support collaborations between mental health, criminal justice, juvenile justice, and corrections systems to reduce the number of mentally ill offenders in the criminal justice system, to improve the mental health care received by those who are incarcerated, and to increase the number of transitional and discharge programs to help reduce the rate of recidivism of mentally ill offenders discharged from prison and jail.

Human Rights Watch urges enactment of the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act. The legislation reflects a realization that a criminal justice approach, and particularly incarceration, may be both unnecessary and counterproductive in many cases of nonviolent misconduct by persons with mental illness. In addition, the legislation moves beyond a purely punitive approach to conditions in prisons and jails, recognizing that individuals as well as society are best served when those mentally ill offenders who are behind bars are provided necessary mental health services and programs while incarcerated and post-release support upon release.

U.S. Representative Ted Strickland (D-OH) introduced the bill in the House. With passage by the Senate, Human Rights Watch hopes the House of Representatives will move swiftly to pass it. We urge people to write their representatives to urge them to support the Mentally Ill Offenders Treatment and Crime Reduction Act.

Related Material

FULL REPORT: Ill-Equipped: U.S. Prisons and Offenders with Mental Illness
HRW Report, November 5, 2003

Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (Note: Large PDF File - slow to download)
As introduced in U.S. Senate, June 5, 2003



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