A disproportionate number of people who interact with the criminal justice system are persons with mental health disorders and intellectual and developmental disabilities, often prompting specialized responses from law enforcement and criminal justice agencies.
In 2016, the city of Chicago, Illinois experienced 768 homicides, representing a nearly 60 percent increase from the previous year. With the recent dramatic increase in violent crime – particularly homicides committed with firearms – Superintendent of Police Eddie Johnson and city leaders recognized the need to enhance their crimefighting strategy.
Since 2011, Erie County, New York has experienced a 15 percent decrease in total arrests, part of an overall reduction in violent crime arrest and sentencing rates. However, Erie County officials noticed that its reentry population – defined as adults returning from federal, state, and local correctional agencies – experienced a dramatic increase in parole revocations.
In 2008, the National Institute of Corrections launched the Evidence-Based Decision Making (EBDM) initiative, offering an innovative method for state and local justice policymakers to better use data and research findings to guide decisionmaking across the criminal justice system. The EBDM approach emphasizes interagency collaboration and the development of jurisdictional research-driven decisions and programming to increase efficiency and enhance public safety.
Calls for service involving people with mental illness can be among the most time-consuming and complex types of calls for law enforcement agencies. Police officers are often the first responders to mental health calls, which may require more resources than other calls for service. These calls also necessitate increased awareness of the safety of both responders and people in crisis. To improve the outcomes of interactions between police and people with mental illness, many law enforcement agencies have adopted Police-Mental Health Collaboration (PMHC) programs, which are collaborative partnerships among law enforcement agencies, mental health providers, and community-based organizations.