Mental Health Problems of Juvenile Offenders

FEBRUARY 2004

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges Congress to enact legislation that would address the complex problem presented by the large number of…juveniles with mental health or emotional illness or disorders who come into contact with the criminal juvenile justice systems; such legislation should provide for:

Grant Programs to help states, territories and localities develop pre- and post- booking diversion programs;

Prevention, in-jail, in-custody, and community-based treatment programs, including re-entry services to…juveniles with mental or emotional illness or disorders; and

Effective training for mental health personnel, law enforcement, judges, court and corrections personnel, probation and parole personnel, prosecutors, and defenders.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges federal, state, local and territorial governments to increase funding and financing for public mental health services so that…juveniles with mental health or emotional illness or disorders can obtain the support necessary to enable them to live independently in the community, and to avoid contact with the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges federal, state, local and territorial governments to improve their response to…juveniles with mental or emotional illness or disorders who come into contact with the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems, by developing and promoting programs, policies and laws that would accomplish the following:

Improve collaboration among professionals, administrators, and policymakers in the criminal justice, juvenile justice, mental health, and substance abuse systems;

Provide training on mental illness and co-occurring disorders and the mental health and substance abuse systems to judges, court and corrections personnel, law enforcement, probation and parole personnel, prosecutors, and defenders who deal with …juveniles with mental or emotional illness ordisorders;

Develop pre- and post-booking programs to divert, where appropriate, juveniles with mental or emotional illness or disorders from the criminal and juvenile justice systems;

Ensure that law enforcement, courts, and correctional agencies properly accommodate…juveniles with mental or emotional illness or disorders with whom they come into contact, both as crime victims and as individuals suspected of committing a crime;

Assist governments at all levels in developing local solutions to the complex problem of dealing with mental illness in the…juvenile justice systems;

Improve federal, state and local policy and practice with respect to access to health and income benefits for persons with mental illness being released from incarceration so that such benefits are available to them immediately upon release without administrative delays; and

Collect information and improve research regarding mental illness and individuals with mental illness in the…juvenile justice systems, particularly research on interventions that prevent criminal justice system involvement and reduce recidivism.