SES Policy Corner

The economic downturn facing our nation brings our attention to one of our most vulnerable groups of citizens, those reentering their communities from jails and prisons with a history of behavioral illness and homelessness.

By Krysta Jones

The economic downturn facing our nation brings our attention to one of our most vulnerable groups of citizens, those reentering their communities from jails and prisons with a history of behavioral illness and homelessness.

A recent study by the Council of State Governments Justice Center found that of the 13 million jail admissions reported in 2007, an estimated 2 million had a mental illness. Other studies note that 43% of defendants with mental disorders were homeless when committing the crime for which they were arrested. Furthermore, for individuals with criminal histories with substance use disorders, treatment options both while incarcerated and upon release are scarce, without which recovery is difficult to achieve and maintain.

Without stable housing and any necessary behavioral health services immediately upon release, returning to jail or prison is almost a given in a system where homeless people find themselves arrested again and again for violations related to homelessness, untreated mental illness, and addiction.

More “inreach” services before leaving the criminal justice system are needed to provide mental health and substance use screening and treatment, coordination of short-term funding for basic needs, and job and housing support to reduce recidivism, and to help those reentering their communities be productive citizens.

APA is working with Congress to provide adequate funding for housing and behavioral health treatment services for those leaving prisons and jails, but we need your help! If you have experience working with this population, please contact Krysta Jones by e-mail or 202-336-5931.

Become a Key Contact

We all have a role to play in the political process. It is important that psychology play an integral part of SES-related legislation and regulations on these issues. APA works closely with decision-makers on Capitol Hill and in federal agencies on policies. As we continue to expand our SES advocacy, now is your chance to make sure your voices are heard. Become a Key Contact for the SES Key Contact Program. The purpose of the SES Key Contact Program is to educate APA members interested in SES issues about legislation on Capitol Hill, mobilize members interested in SES to serve as resources to Members of Congress and their staffs, and encourage members to contact Congress before important votes to ensure SES-related viewpoints are heard. As a Key Contact, you will receive up-to-date information on SES policy, periodic alerts to let you know when action is needed to support SES issues, and advocacy tips.

Furthermore, the Government Relations Offices is seeking experts in various fields who would be willing to serve in various areas such as visiting federal legislators on Capitol Hill or in local districts, writing/emailing your Congress person, attending an advocacy training, or providing expert testimony. If you are interested in registering your expertise with the office, please complete the Advocacy Survey.

For more information on the SES Key Contact Program or to register as an expert, please contact Krysta Jones by e-mail or 202-336-5931.