Criminal Justice Advocacy
We fight against the criminalization of mental health challenges and for the humane treatment of incarcerated people with mental health concerns.
The Mental Health Project advocates for people with mental health concerns involved in the criminal legal system. We represent the Brad H. Class, all incarcerated individuals who receive mental health treatment while in New York City jails. We are deeply familiar with the difficulties people with mental health concerns have within correctional facilities and in accessing essential mental health services, housing, and benefits upon release. We engage in organizing, coalition building, and legislative and policy advocacy to prevent people with mental health concerns from encountering the criminal legal system, to ensure that they receive quality healthcare during incarceration, to improve conditions in jails and prisons, and to promote appropriate discharge planning and successful reentry upon release to the community.
Ending the criminalization of mental health concerns
We support efforts to decarcerate New York and reinvest in treatment alternatives for people with mental health concerns in New York City. We are members of the coordinating committee for the Campaign to Close Rikers. We advocate for the passage of the Treatment Not Jail Act (S.1976A/A.1263A), which would enable more people with mental health concerns to have their criminal cases resolved through participation in treatment.
Read our policy brief Diversion Not Incarceration: Recommendations to Reduce Incarceration of Black, Indigenous and People of Color with Mental Health Challenges.
Promoting improved healthcare and humane conditions
Our staff are active in the NYC Jails Action Coalition (JAC), which promotes human rights, dignity, and safety for people in City jails. We were instrumental in the NYC Board of Correction adopting minimum standards limiting the use of solitary confinement in City jails. We regularly testify at Board of Correction meetings and hearings about issues that affect our clients. We also assist people incarcerated in City jails in sharing their concerns with the Board through our collaboration with NYU Law’s Prison Reform and Education Project.
As leaders in Mental Health Alternatives to Solitary Confinement (MHASC), we advocate for the NYS Office of Mental Health and Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to address the punitive nature of residential mental health units in state prisons and to provide therapeutic responses to people in mental health crisis.
Ending the torture of solitary confinement
First through MHASC and JAC and now through the #HALTsolitary Campaign, we seek to end the torture of solitary confinement in prisons and jails. People with mental health concerns are more likely to be placed in solitary, and the effects of isolation are devastating to their health and safety.
Read our comments on DOCCS’ proposed regulations regarding implementation of the HALT Solitary Confinement Act.
Read our testimony in support of Intro 549-2022, City Council legislation to end the use of solitary confinement in NYC jails.
People with mental health concerns are entitled to discharge planning services that provide for a smooth transition to the community. Unfortunately, many people are released from prison and jail without the services they need to succeed in the community. We provide individual advocacy for people receiving mental health treatment in NYC. Learn more about our direct services, including discharge planning advocacy for our clients. We also offer reentry workshops for people with mental health concerns returning from prison or jail.