Criminal Justice Project

Contact Us

NAMI Minnesota
1919 University Ave. W., Suite 400
Saint Paul, MN 55104

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


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Criminal Justice

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.

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.

Task Force Looks at Mental Health Care in Jails

The Department of Corrections initiated the formation of a task force to review the rules governing Minnesota jails. The impetus for this was the recommendations from the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) contained in their March 2016 Report, which evaluated mental health services in jails.  

Members of the task force include representatives from the sheriffs, jail administrators, counties, jail nurses, and community mental health. NAMI Minnesota is serving on the task force. In addition to the OLA report the task force is looking at timelines for completing an assessment and verifying medications, providing medications upon release, providing greater alignment to national standards and examining release planning for inmates with a mental illness.

The group has met several times and has reviewed the recommendations and compared Minnesota standards to the standards developed by the American Corrections Association. They hope to compete their work early in 2018.

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 NAMI 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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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. Watch DVD, here.  For free copies, contact NAMI.