Criminal Justice Project

Contact Us

NAMI Minnesota
800 Transfer Road, #31
Saint Paul, MN 55114

phone: 651-645-2948
toll free: 1-888-NAMI-Helps
fax: 651-645-7379


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Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice: Advocating for an Adult with a Mental Illness (March 2014) - For anyone trying to advocate for a person with mental illness who has been arrested, is in jail, or is returning to the community after incarceration. Download, here.

NAMI Minnesota believes too many people with mental illnesses end up in the criminal justice system. NAMI advocates for public policy to enhance public safety and reduce the disproportionate contact of people with mental illnesses with the criminal justice system.

NAMI promotes several types of evidence-based programs and promising practices, including:

Mobile crisis teams are made up of mental health professionals and are available statewide to respond when someone experiences a mental health crisis. These teams can replace or complement a law enforcement response. Find your local crisis resources here.  

Diversion programs move people from the criminal justice system into treatment when appropriate. Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training is one form of diversion. CIT training is a 40-hour class that teaches law enforcement officers how to safely deescalate a mental health crisis and connect people to local mental health resources.

Mental health courts provide individuals whose criminal acts are driven by mental illness an opportunity to enter into court-supervised treatment instead of jail. Minnesota has three mental health courts--one in Hennepin County, one in Ramsey County and one in Duluth (read a Duluth News Tribunearticle about the court).

NAMI trains corrections staff to recognize the symptoms of mental illnesses, de-escalate mental health crises, use Mental Health First Aid techniques and understand the mental health resources available to them in their line of work.

Reentry Supports
When individuals with serious mental illnesses reenter the community from jail or prison, they face major challenges in accessing treatment, housing, employment and other necessary resources. Discharge planning programs helps individuals arrange these resources before release from incarceration. A growing number of jails in the state have discharge planning programs, and Minnesota prisons provide release planning for inmates with serious and persistent mental illnesses. 

There are many legislative changes that can help reduce employer discrimination and other barriers to re-entry. NAMI actively participates in the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition, which advocates for legislation that facilitates the safe return of ex-offenders to their communities. Each year, the Second Chance Coalition holds a Second Chance Day on the Hill.

Support for You and Your Family

Criminal justice involvement is a stressful, confusing experience, both for the person arrested and the family. Below are some helpful resources for you and your family:

NAMI MInnesota's booklet: Criminal Justice: Advocating for an Adult with a Mental Illness (March 2014) - For anyone trying to advocate for a person with mental illness who has been arrested, is in jail, or is returning to the community after incarceration. Download, here.

NAMI Forensic Network/MN
The Forensic Network is an advocacy, education and support group. Support group meetings are free and open to families and friends of people who have a mental illness and are involved with the criminal justice system. The Forensic Network seeks to:
• Improve living conditions in jails, prisons and the state security hospital;
• Provide information and support to families and people with mental illnesses about the criminal justice system; and
• Advocate for laws that improve mental health care and treatment.

For more information, call Joe at 651-484-8218 or visit the NAMI Forensic Network/MN website.

Felon-Friendly Community Resources
A Community Resource List from the Council on Crime and Justice.

Helping Attorneys Represent Clients
A helpful list of issues for attorneys to consider when representing clients with mental illnesses from the State Public Defender's Office: Issue Spotting for Clients with Mental Illnesses.

Veterans Justice Outreach - Assists veterans interfacing with the criminal justice system, here.

Juvenile Justice

Juvenile Justice: Advocating for a Child with a Mental Illnesses (Sept. 2016) - Answers questions such as: What if my child is sent to a juvenile detention center? What does my child’s attorney need to know? What can I expect in court?  How can I help my child prepare to leave a correctional or treatment facility? How should I handle a mental health crisis? What do I need to know about calling law enforcement? Download, here.

DVD Shows Value of Jail Discharge Planning

NAMI's DVD, Jail Discharge Planning: Ending the Cycle of Recidivism, explains how two Minnesota counties (Stearns and Steele) have dramatically reduced recidivism by connecting inmates to resources before their release from jail. See DVD trailer.  Watch DVD, here.  For free copies, contact NAMI.

Advocating for a Person Who Has Been Arrested

"Advocating for People with Mental Illnesses in the Minnesota Criminal Justice System" is a booklet for anyone advocating for a person with mental illness who has been arrested, is in jail, or is returning to the community. Download here.

Other Resources and Information

New Policy for Inmates on MA
In 2007, NAMI helped pass legislation so that individuals can submit a short application to re-apply for Medical Assistance (MA) when released from jail. Access the application form or find more information about the policy.

Mental Health in U.S. Prisons and Jails
A report on the prevalence of mental illnesses in jails and prisons nationwide from the U.S. Department of Justice Statistics (September 2006). Nationwide, 64 percent of people in jails report having symptoms of a mental illness or recent contact with the mental health system.

NAMI Minnesota Jail Survey
In 2005, NAMI surveyed jails throughout the state and received 71 responses from 47 different county jails. Read the full survey.