Addressing mental health in criminal justice system requires training, systemic changes, visiting professor says

A visiting social work professor from the University of Illinois-Chicago delivered a talk Thursday on the relationship between the criminal justice system and individuals with mental illness.

Amy Watson’s research focuses heavily on Crisis Intervention Team programs in Chicago police departments. CIT is a training program that prepares police officers to recognize the signs and symptoms of severe mental illness, as well as interact with people with these illnesses in a positive, helpful manner.

Police arrest more than 1 million people with severe mental illnesses each year, and one in four people fatally shot by police officers have severe mental illnesses.

“Our largest mental health hospitals are jails,” Watson said.

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