Justice & Health

Smart justice, better outcomes

Texas jails and emergency rooms are filled with people who have lived with untreated mental illness for years, often cycling in and out of the justice system. Increasingly, organizations and communities across Texas are implementing “smart justice” policies to more capably and strategically respond to mental health crises. The Meadows Institute is working in cities and communities across the state to help create and implement effective programs built upon these policies.

Did you know?

people in local jails in the U.S. meeting the criteria for having a serious mental illness in 2012*


people in Texas jails with at least one serious mental illness in 2015**

*Bureau of Justice Statistics, **Hogg Foundation for Mental Health/Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Our challenge

Better paths to routine mental health treatment

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Promoting smarter response to crises

Texas is changing the way we respond to mental health-related emergencies. In South Dallas, under a pilot program called RIGHT Care, 9-1-1 calls regarding mental crises are responded to by a police officer, a mental health care professional, and a paramedic. The goal of programs like these is fewer arrests and more instances where people are safely guided to the mental health care they need, while freeing up police officers, jails, and emergency rooms.


Crafting a more responsive judicial system

Our judicial system has historically been ill-equipped to handle defendants who need mental health care. This is crucial, because many people who suffer from untreated mental illness find themselves in the hands of the courts at one time or another. The Meadows Institute is working to help the courts establish infrastructure – such as the state’s Judicial Commission on Mental Health – to help the justice system be more adept and responsive regarding mental health issues.

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Better training for responders

While police officers and other first responders are frequently the first people to interact with those in mental health crisis, these officers themselves are all too often inadequately trained in mental health identification and available community resources. The Meadows Institute partners with police departments to analyze their training and determine how they can maximize the ability of their departments and their officers to achieve better outcomes in these crisis situations while partnering with health professionals in their communities.

Our Approach

Driving Change

The Meadows Institute is committed to improving all aspects of how the criminal justice system interacts with people with mental illness, from expanding capacity to ensuring that health care services and judicial leadership have the tools they need to ensure those who need care can get it.

Justice Texas

Featured Case Study

Dallas County Smart Justice Project

SUMMARY – The Dallas County Smart Justice Project aimed to reduce the number of people with mental illness who receive primary treatment in jail or only after encounters with law enforcement. With the support of the W. W. Caruth, Jr. Foundation, the Meadows Institute provided policy guidance to Dallas County during planning and implementation of their Smart Justice project.

Featured Projects

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Updated on:
June 29, 2020

Transforming Police Responses to Mental Health Emergencies: Rapid Integrated Group Healthcare Team (RIGHT Care)

SUMMARY - The RIGHT Care Program is a data-driven approach to emergency mental health crisis response that is helping transform criminal justice and health...

Updated on:
April 1, 2016

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...