Mentally ill Offenders: Crime in America.Net

One of us was called to a major highway one evening with a report that an elderly woman was walking among traffic. He immediately activated his lights and siren and sped as fast as he could to the location fully expecting to find the woman dead. But there she was, in the middle of the highway as motorists desperately hit the brakes and tried not to hit her or kill themselves. How no one was hurt was literally beyond the comprehension of our colleague.

He risked his own life by running out into traffic (he felt that he simply did not have the time to shut down the road) and grabbed the rather frail woman and told her to go with him.

She fought and kicked and screamed and inflicted more than a bit of trauma as the surprised officer made the decision to drag her off the road—still being hit—still being kicked.  He held her against his cruiser until backup arrived. She proceeded to try to hit them as well.

People driving by called the station wanting to know why the officers were treating an elderly, frail woman with such force.

Dealing with the mentally ill is now a daily part of law enforcement. Dealing with the mentally ill is now a daily part of corrections.

There is self report data that 55 percent of offenders claim mental health issues.

The Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Police Executive Research Forum recently released a report entitled, Improving Responses to People with Mental Illness: Tailoring Law Enforcement Initiatives to Individual Jurisdictions.

This Bureau of Justice Assistance funded report is intended to be a resource for jurisdictions developing responses to mentally ill offenders. In recent years, law enforcement agencies have begun partnering with mental health agencies and other community groups to develop and improve responses to mentally ill offenders.

These responses are designed to promote crises de-escalation and favor treatment of the individual over incarceration. This approach is called Special Police Responses (SPRs) and it is based on two different models: the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) and the Co-Responder model.

The CIT model was designed to improve safety by enhancing an officer’s ability to deescalate a situation, while the Co-Responder model grew out of the recognition that many of the offenders encountered on the streets were in need of mental health services.

The report is divided into two sections. The first outlines the seven step program design process that is used to best address a jurisdictions resources and needs. The second, provides two overview charts—one about the problems that affect program design and the other about jurisdiction characteristics that can impact initiative plans.

The complete report is available at:


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