Coordination and Communication are Key to Improving Mental Health and Criminal Justice in America

Mental health and criminal justice are a tangled mess in communities all across the country. Rather than supporting health from childhood through old age, our social systems show hardly any signs of understanding mental health at all. We don’t systematically recognize or have the capacity to respond to early indications for concern, and instead rely upon law enforcement to intervene in crises that could be prevented or better managed by health, education, housing, and other human services.

From one end of life to another, through prenatal health care, to education, employment, and housing—we can support and promote each other’s mental health instead of ignoring, neglecting, or even contributing to mental health’s decline. With so many sensible opportunities to help an individual develop and get on course toward health and prosperity, it is a testament to our shortcomings in health care, as a nation, that an alarming number of mental health crisis cases are being managed through law enforcement and the justice system across the United States.


The Equitas Project promotes sensible efforts toward earlier intervention and lifelong support in every community, framing the disentanglement of mental health and criminal justice within a fully integrated view of health, which includes physical, mental, and community wellbeing.

Equitas has relaunched its website and laid out our vision with this messaging in mind. We have even created an interactive visual representation of our policy and practice reform priorities in the context of focus areas along the human lifespan. In this model, desirable human development is represented separately and above a corrective/justice-involved path. What we’re calling for is a rebalancing of our taxpayer investment. If we divert more funding toward supporting healthful human development, we can reduce our spending on higher-cost crisis intervention, court proceedings, and corrections.

In this Land of Liberty, where every individual is considered to have intrinsic value and certain inalienable rights, the criminal justice system should be an intervention of last resort. When necessary, for the sake of public safety and the preservation of the rights we all value, corrections should be undertaken with the individual’s eventual release in mind. A truly corrective approach invests intelligence and resources in this process, to ensure that individuals do not later return to the criminal justice system.

Equitas, in a new strategic push, has also begun to focus more intentionally on elevating the role of grassroots leaders, and on cultivating those leaders from the ranks of concerned visitors to the Equitas website. We believe that anyone can lead from where they are, and that policies and culture will change as we become united in our priorities and messaging. To this end, we strive to raise awareness among concerned activists and voters, and engage them in our work.

In the coming weeks, Equitas will be building greater capacity for visitor engagement on our website’s Get Involved page, creating opportunities to take action, learn, and share. Stay tuned for these updates, and please pardon our dust as we build an engine for change. We are interested in hearing your thoughts! Please share your reactions and questions on Equitas’ strategy and redesign in the comments below.

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