Community Mental Health Journal

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 185-195

First online:

Are jails replacing the mental health system for the homeless mentally ill?

  • John R. BelcherAffiliated withSchool of Social Work and Community Planning

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The author explores the process of how homeless mentally ill persons become involved with the criminal justice system. The unique demands of homelessness and chronic mental illness were specifically examined in this naturalistically based study. The author concludes that a combination of severe mental illness, a tendency to decompensate in a nonstructured environment, and an inability or unwillingness to follow through with aftercare contributed to involvement with the criminal justice system. Changes in the mental health system that would prevent the criminalization of the homeless mentally ill are suggested.