Stepping Up to Keep the Mentally Ill Out of Jail

Paul Seeman pic

Paul Seeman

A former judge in Oakland, California, Paul Seeman has a great deal of experience with the intersection of mental health and criminal justice concerns. During his tenure with the Alameda County Superior Court, Paul Seeman was a member of the Judicial Council Task Force for Criminal Justice Collaboration on Mental Health Issues. As the jail and prison population of inmates with mental health illnesses increases at an alarming rate, a national Stepping Up Initiative has been launched to address the problem. Over 270 counties across the nation have joined the Stepping Up Initiative.

More than 2 million people with serious psychiatric issues are incarcerated each year. The majority of these also have addiction problems. The Stepping Up Initiative addresses the escalating costs for these inmates as well as circumstances causing them to repeatedly cycle through the justice system.

Launched in 2015, the Stepping Up Initiative rallies leaders around the common goal of reducing the number of patients with mental illness and substance abuse disorders in prisons. A summit was held in Washington D.C. for jail administrators, law enforcement officials, politicians, psychiatrists and other personnel from 50 jurisdictions over 37 states in April 2016. These professionals hope to implement nationally local and state models successfully providing necessary mental illness treatment keeping inmates from returning to prison.

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