mental health, addiction and incarceration

Talking about . . . mental health, addiction and incarceration

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The is growing awareness and concern at the high rates (50 to 60 percent) of mentally ill people inside our jails and prisons. What is the appropriate response to an individual with mental health challenges who commits a crime? Does it depend on the crime? What is the role of addiction and mental illness? To what degree are mental health problems emerging because of the atmosphere in our criminal justice system?

Click here if you would like a pdf of the following topic material to share with your cohost and friends.

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Background reading (optional)

While you don't need to be an expert on this topic, sometimes people want background information. Our partner, AllSides, has prepared a variety of articles reflecting multiple sides of this topic. 

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Now that you are all together, here we go!

This Living Room Conversation flows through five rounds of questions and a closing. Some rounds ask you to answer each question. Others feature multiple questions that serve as conversation starters — you need only respond to the one or two you find most interesting.

Before you begin your conversation, please go over the Conversation Ground Rules with your participants.

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One. Why are we here?

What interested you or drew you to this topic?

Two. Your core values

Answer one or more of the following:
  • what sense of purpose or duty guides you in life? What is your mission statement?
  • what would your best friend say about who you are and what makes you tick?
  • what are your hopes and concerns for your community and/or the country, now and long-term?

Three. What are your biggest concerns about mental health, addiction and incarceration?

Remember that the goal of this Living Room Conversation is for each participant to listen to and learn about the different opinions within the group to see where you might share interests, intentions and goals. 

Answer one or more of the following questions:
  • how should we balance the needs of community safety with the needs of the mentally ill and/or indigent who are arrested, their family and others?
  • what is an appropriate level of community-provided support for mentally ill, addicted and indigent individuals?
  • how do we provide, when appropriate, alternatives to jail for mentally ill, addicted and indigent individuals?
  • where is mental illness and community safety on your top-10 community focus list? Why?

Four. Reflection

Answer one or more of the following questions:
  • in one sentence, share what was most meaningful or valuable to you in the experience of this Living Room Conversation;
  • what new understanding or common ground did you find within this topic?
  • has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group, including yourself?

Five. Accomplishment and moving forward

Answer both of the following questions:
  • name one important thing that was accomplished here;
  • is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?

Closing

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