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Chief Justice's Task Force on Criminal Justice and Mental Health issues report

Madison, Wisconsin - September 22, 2010

The Chief Justice's Task Force on Criminal Justice and Mental Health has issued a comprehensive assessment and report of recommendations for improving the criminal justice system’s response to persons with mental illness.

The report is the result of six months of work by an 80-member task force assigned by Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson to document existing programs, challenges, gaps and opportunities for improvement in systemic responses to people with mental illness. A copy of the report is available on the task force's web page.

“Mental illness is on one of the most significant underlying issues faced by many individuals who become involved with the court system. This report provides valuable insight and direction on how to improve our responses, not only for the individuals involved, but for the entire criminal justice system,” Abrahamson said.

The initiative is part of a national project designed to encourage collaborative efforts and assist state supreme court justices in guiding efforts in their state. Wisconsin was selected to participate through a competitive process overseen by the Council of State Governments' Justice Center.

Task force members included law enforcement, legislators, judges, district attorneys, public defenders, Department of Corrections and Department of Health Service’s staff, jail administrators, state mental health directors, local mental health providers, lawyers, non-profit organizations, consumers, hospital administrators and counsel, county board members and county executives, and mental health advocates.

The task force recommends, among other things, a collaborative model be used to identify at early stages in criminal proceedings persons with mental illnesses and to replicate effective local programs in other counties. Abrahamson will convene a small committee of interested persons to focus on the implementation of some of the initiatives highlighted in the report.

The Chief Justices' Criminal Justice Mental Health Leadership Initiative was established with staff support from the Council of State Government’s Justice Center and the Center for Mental Health Services’ National GAINS Center, with funding from the JEHT and Conrad Hilton foundations, as well as the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Theresa Owens
Executive Assistant
(608) 261-4310

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