Some tools look to an individual’s mental health history as an element in their calculation of risk. Over 27% of jurisdictions in our research use a tool that includes mental health.
CPAT gives 4 points for an answer of “yes” or “unknown” to the question of “Past or Current Mental Health Treatment,” which is the same number of points it gives to having a past jail sentence.
COMPAS includes elements of mental health, including “anti-social attitudes and beliefs” and “familial-marital-dysfunctional relationships.” Some local tools from our interviews also included elements of mental health, such as Connecticut’s tool, which gives a -1 to any issues of substance use or mental health.1Interview with Media Mobilizing Project, 8/30/2017. See Interview Summary for more information
It is important to note that characterizing someone as “anti-social” or being resistant to an interview are subjective measures determined by the person conducting the interview.
Using mental health as an element of risk on pretrial RATs implies that those suffering from mental illness are automatically more dangerous — despite many studies showing that those with mental health challenges are actually more at risk of being hurt or victimized than of hurting others.2Treatment Advocacy Center: Victimization and Serious Mental Illness
Including mental health also fails to uphold the 1972 Supreme Court ruling that people with mental illnesses have a right to treatment.3Alina Perez, Steven Leifman, and Ana Estrada: Reversing the Criminalization of Mental Illness, Sage Journals
It instead contributes to the way that the criminal legal system has become the de facto primary health provider to individuals with mental illnesses, regardless of how well prisons or jails are equipped to provide mental health services. Those with serious mental illnesses are overrepresented in jails and prisons, as their symptoms have become criminalized.4John Junginger, Keith Claypoole, Ranilo Laygo, and Annette Crisanti: Effects of Serious Mental Illness and Substance Abuse on Criminal Offenses, Psychiatric Services
Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2014 show that 43.6 million adults ages 18 and older experienced some form of mental illness in the past year,5Sarra L. Hedden, Joel Kennet, Rachel Lipari, Grace Medley, Peter Tice, Elizabeth A. P. Copello, and Larry A. Kroutil: Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or about 18.1% of the adult population.
In a national survey in 2011-2012, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 26% of people incarcerated in jails and 14% of people incarcerated in prisons met the threshold for serious psychological distress — a rate three to five times the 5% rate amongst adults in the general U.S. population.6Jennifer Bronson and Marcus Berzofsky: Indicators of Mental Health Problems Reported by Prisoners and Jail Inmates, Bureau of Justice Statistics The same study showed that 50% of people in prisons and 36% of people in jails had been told in the past that they had a mental health disorder by a mental health professional.7Jennifer Bronson and Marcus Berzofsky: Indicators of Mental Health Problems Reported by Prisoners and Jail Inmates, Bureau of Justice Statistics
The National Alliance on Mental Illness has stated that those who commit offenses due to mental health challenges should receive treatment, not punishment.8John Junginger, Keith Claypoole, Ranilo Laygo, and Annette Crisanti: Effects of Serious Mental Illness and Substance Abuse on Criminal Offenses, Psychiatric Services
Individuals with mental illness should not be stigmatized or viewed as having a moral failing.