Corrections and Courts Collaboration with Human Services Trend Evaluation
Corrections and Courts Collaboration with Human Services Trend Evaluation
Human Services is a type of community safety net. According to “Health and Human Services” (2016), “They are the organizations that come face to face with the underserved and our disenfranchised neighbors. They provide services like counseling, foster care, elder care, substance abuse prevention, after-school programs, job training, and vocational rehabilitation. They provide information and referral services, give people facing tough times a little bit of hope, and advocate for change” (para. 7). Without Human Services providers many citizens of the community would find themselves within the criminal justice system without help or hope of a better future. Human Services has become an enormous part of communities today and has helped numerous people move towards a better future for themselves, and their families. A large portion of their clients are those suffering from a mental illness and have found themselves within the criminal justice system. Human Service providers have begun to reach out and help these individuals, guiding them towards a better future.
Past, Present, and Future Trends
Since mandatory prison sentencing laws were put into place, prisons have been faced with dealing with the issue of prison overcrowding across the United States. Increased and mandatory sentences meant more inmates with longer stays. Mandatory also meant that it didn’t matter if the offender was suffering from a form of mental illness that had been running untreated. Throughout history, the primary goal of prisons leaned more towards punishment, with solitary confinement often used, and the well-being of inmates was not a concern. Rehabilitation was not a concern; inmates were there to be punished. This was what society wanted, and it shaped how prisons were run. However, in recent years, it has been discovered that without rehabilitation punishment by itself only increased recidivism. People began to realize that the purpose of prisons needed to shift towards rehabilitation. Community-based programs began to be developed to help deal with the issue of prison overpopulation. However, these programs brought with them the hope of rehabilitation beginning to play a larger role within the criminal justice system. These programs are meant to help reintegrate the offender back into the community safely. With these programs Human Services has evolved, since they play the largest role in community-based programs. Human Services providers began working with inmates, helping them to receive treatment and set up a plan for continued success upon their release.
As the number of mentally ill persons that were incarcerated steadily grew higher, it became obvious that a prison was not the place for these individuals. They needed treatment options and more individualized care than they could receive in a prison cell. Prisons seemed to be hurting these individuals more than helping them. They were either getting longer sentences because of disruptions or problems they were causing while incarcerated or they would be released only to be brought back in. These individuals were not being given the tools they needed to create a different future for themselves. Community-based Human Service programs began to reach out and assist with these individuals and their sentences. Healey (1999), “Jurisdictions across the country are adapting case management techniques, a service delivery approach developed by mental health and social services workers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, to suit the needs of a wide variety of criminal justice populations” (para. 1). Case management strategies began to be used to address offenders with mental disorders to help reduce recidivism rates and re-introduce them back into society as productive and safe citizens. The human service providers address issues that may have contributed to the offenders current status, such as joblessness or homelessness, and work with the offender as they move through the criminal justice system and return to society. They work with the offender to obtain continuous treatment for their illness as well as work with them to build a better future. Each case is different, and the needs of the client differ, but Human Services providers were trained to adapt each case to the needs of that client. Many of the case management services would be supervised through probation and case management services would help to link offenders to programs and mental health services within their community when they were being released.
Current and Future Issues
According to “Mental Illness, Human Rights, And US Prisons” (2009), “Prisons were never designed as facilities for the mentally ill, yet that is one of their primary roles today” (para. 4). All too often citizens suffering from some type of mental illness who are unable to receive treatment end up in the criminal justice system. A large number of the prison population is made up of inmates suffering from one type of illness or another. Prisons were not originally designed to care for these individuals, and often ended up causing more harm than good. However, over the years, this dynamic has changed, and these individuals have been able to receive treatment for their illnesses while incarcerated through the works of human services. Through treatment, many of these individuals can recover, at least to a degree, and become independent and productive citizens. However, the costs of treatment for these individuals continues to steepen burdening the criminal justice system with unattainable budgets. “Mental Illness, Human Rights, and US Prisons” (2009) states, “Although there are many conscientious and committed mental health professionals working in corrections, they face daunting if not insurmountable challenges to meeting the needs of their patients: impossibly large caseloads, physically unpleasant facilities, and institutional cultures that are unsympathetic to the importance of mental health services” (para. 7). These issues faced by these professionals are only increased when the clientele is of the older population. Older inmates require more medical, and mental health treatment, and those costs can be crippling. By incorporating community-based human services for non-violent offenders, some of these burdens can be lessened providing those responsible for the incarcerated individuals with lighter caseloads. Mentally ill inmates have different needs than other inmates, especially upon their release. Ensuring their continued care is essential to their success within the community. Human Services programs work towards setting these individuals up for housing, jobs, education, and continued treatment programs. However, these programs can only handle so many clients. The number of those in need of these services greatly surpasses the amount that can be taken care of. The future of the criminal justice system and human services working together to build a better community depends on the advancement of these programs and the development of new ones.
Another issue faced by these programs is that often they are not connected with each other. A community may have multiple programs available to these individuals, but they do not always work together. Accessing everything that is available to these individuals is not always an easy task. Often these programs offer different types of services to individuals and do not always have the same goal. Connecting these programs with each so that any given program can offer these individual services they may not provide but are provided at another program is essential to the continued success of these programs.
Community-based human service programs continue to grow, strengthening the criminal justice system as a whole. With the main focus being rehabilitation of offenders rather than punishment they are helping to build a better future for society. More and more non-violent offenders suffering from a form of mental illness are being helped and receiving treatment for their illnesses. They are being connected with appropriate programs to help continue their success upon their release. The criminal justice system and human services are working together to build a safer and brighter future for all communities. Those suffering from a mental illness are no longer shunned and hidden away into institutions to no longer be the problem of the community. Society as a whole has managed to change their perception of these individuals and realize they can be helped, and they can get better with treatment. However, the current situation still needs improvement. Funding and adequate personnel will always be an issue. However, these programs need to continue to expand and incorporate more ways to help these individuals with their continued success.
Healey, K. M. (1999). National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/173409.pdf
Health and Human Services. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.att.com/Common/files/pdf/npower_health_and_human_services.pdf
Mental Illness, Human Rights, and US Prisons. (2009). Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/09/22/mental-illness-human-rights-and-us-prisons