In-Depth: The Intersection Between Mental Illness & Criminal Justice

May 22, 2018

The Exchange: In-Depth

Our series continues with a  look at the criminal justice system.  Many incarcerated Americans are behind bars due to some form of mental illness, and in recent years, the courts and police have been trying to adapt. We're examining the complex intersection between the mental health and legal systems. 


  • Donna Brown - Former public defender. She is an attorney with the Manchester firm Wadleigh, Starr & Peters and serves on the board of the National Alliance on Mental Illness - N.H. 
  • David Goldstein - Chief of Police in Franklin. He's been a police officer for almost 40  years and has extensive education and training in mental health issues. 
  • Taunya Jarzyniecki - Mental health counselor and court liaison in the Community Connections program at the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester.  
  • Thomas Velardi - Strafford County Attorney. He has extensive experience in the mental-health court system.


Related Reading

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, people experiencing a mental health crisis are more likely to encounter police than get medical help.  As a result, 2 million people with mental illness are booked into jails each year. 

In recent years, police officers in New Hampshire have been undergoing special training to deal with individuals who are experiencing mental health crisis.  

According to an NHPR review, police shootings in N.H. are mostly likely to involve people who are armed, intoxicated, or severely mentally ill.  

For those who qualify, mental health courts offer treatment, rather than jail time. 

Kaiser Health News explored the effectiveness of mental health courts in improving participants' mental health and reducing recidivism. 

A N.H. Department of Justice list of mental health courts and drug courts around the state. 

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, state legislatures around the country consider policies that address the interplay between people with mental illness and the criminal justice system.