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The prevalence of serious mental illness (SMI) among persons in the criminal justice system is between three and six times the rate for individuals with SMI in the general U.S. population.

A recent study of over 20,000 adults in five local jails found that 14.5 percent of male inmates and 31 percent of female inmates met criteria for a SMI. If these same estimates are applied to the almost 13 million jail admissions reported in 2010, the study findings suggest that more than two million bookings of a person with SMI occur annually. Studies suggest that the co-occurrence of mental health and substance use disorders (COD) is common. In jails, of the approximately 17 percent with SMI, an estimated 72 percent had a co-occurring substance use disorder. Approximately 59 percent of state prisoners with mental illnesses had a co-occurring drug and/or alcohol problem. The overrepresentation of people with SMI or COD in the criminal justice system has a significant impact on the recovery path of these individuals, creates stress for their families, and has an effect on public safety and government spending.

To meet the needs of people with SMI or COD, SAMHSA's GAINS Center for Behavioral Health and Justice Transformation and the Council of State Governments Justice Center have prepared an easy-to-use checklist to help behavioral health agencies assess their utilization of evidence-based practices associated with positive public safety and public health outcomes. This new checklist is available on the SAMHSA’s GAINS Center website on the evidence-based practices page of the topical resources tab.

The GAINS Center for Behavioral Health & Justice Transformation is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Visit: to learn more about this and other programs.