projectsDallas County Smart Justice Planning Project, Phase One

Dallas County Smart Justice Planning Project, Phase One

SUMMARY – The primary goal of this project—made possible by the Caruth Smart Justice Planning Grant—is to improve overall public safety by reducing the number of people with mental illness receiving treatment through involvement with law enforcement and the jail. The project is also expected to lead to improved health outcomes for individuals, better alignment of treatment needs with existing and future system capabilities, and decreased pressure on area emergency rooms.

Project Updates

April 5, 2017

Dallas County Smart Justice Initiative made possible by a grant from the W.W. Caruth, Jr. Foundation

Project Details

Across the nation and in Texas, the toll of mental illness is staggering. Nationally, about 20 percent of people in local jails are estimated to have a “recent history” of a mental health condition, almost three-quarters of whom also have substance use disorders. Once incarcerated, people with mental illnesses tend to stay in jail longer and upon release are at a higher risk of returning to incarceration than those without these illnesses.

Whether in Dallas County, at the state level in Texas, or in counties across the United States, there is near universal agreement that counties and states need to work in partnership to effectively reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jail.

With support from the W.W. Caruth, Jr. Foundation at the Communities Foundation of Texas, in 2015, MMHPI launched a county-wide planning project to identify strategies to improve outcomes for people with mental illnesses within the Dallas County justice system.

The primary objective of the project was to improve public safety by developing a comprehensive multi-year plan to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of the Dallas County Jail for treating people who primarily have psychiatric needs, and who do not otherwise need to be incarcerated. The project had two phases: Phase One assembled facts to inform the plan. This document provides an overview of the methodology, findings and recommendations from Phase One.

In Phase Two, project partners, the CSG Justice Center, Dallas County, the Caruth Police Institute, Parkland Health & Hospital System (Parkland), and the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation will work together with stakeholders from across the country to draft the plan.

Read more about the results of this project in the Dallas Smart Justice Project case study.

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