Mental Health, Addiction and Incarceration

Conversation Guide

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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?

Let's Get Started!

This Living Room Conversation flows through three 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...

Please go over the Conversation Agreements with your participants.

Introductions: Getting Started/
Why Are We Here?

What interested you or drew you to this conversation?

Round 1: Core Values

Answer one or more of the following:
  • What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?
  • What would your best friend say about who you are and what inspires you?
  • What are your hopes and concerns for your community and/or the country?

Round 2:

What are your thoughts on Mental Health, Addiction and Incarceration?

Remember that the goal for this Living Room Conversation is for all of us to listen and learn about where we have different opinions and where we have shared 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?

Round 3: Reflection & Next Steps

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?
  • 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?

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