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Report Outlines Juvenile Justice System’s Mental Health Failures

Although young delinquents diagnosed with mental illness have been incarcerated at steadily higher rates in California’s juvenile justice system for nearly a decade, these offenders rarely receive effective treatment for their mental health disorders. This failure is due in part to improper screening and diagnoses, inadequate access to mental health professionals or treatment facilities, and deep budget cuts.

A new report, Mental Health Issues in California’s Juvenile Justice System, takes a closer look at these issues and offers recommendations to policymakers, local officials, and practitioners on concrete ways to reform the system. More information on the report—a Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice project that included the participation of defense and prosecuting attorneys, police officers, academics, and advocates—is available here.

Suggested reforms in the report include thorough mental health screening of young offenders, consistent diagnoses of mental health disorders, adoption of proven therapeutic programs, and collaboration among relevant government agencies. It also recommends expanding community-based intensive family therapies for troubled youth.