With the closure of state hospitals beginning in the 1970’s and the shrinking resources in many communities, there is a large and disproportionate number of seriously mentally ill individuals under correctional custody and supervision. Researchers document a serious mental illness in 15% of incarcerated men and 31% of incarcerated women, rates in excess of three to six times those found in the general population.
The magnitude of the problem of untreated mental illness is revealed not only in the numbers, but also in the consequences. These individuals are more likely to experience suicide, victimization, violence, and unpredictable crises.
Typically, when a correctional and detention center is faced with a crisis, the first reaction is to call upon SORT/CERT, or its equivalent, for a swift response and resolution. Correctional and detention leaders, community members and mental health advocates all agree upon the premise that first responders’ swift response is a necessary component to facility safety and security. Disparity occurs and criticism arises when there are unfortunate consequences to the response such as inmate injury, staff injury and/or property damage.
CIT training is the bridge to narrowing the gap by providing front line staff with the needed skills and competencies to handle potentially dangerous individuals experiencing crisis situations. Additionally, it provides training for officers regarding behavioral health issues and educating community members about the role and needs of correctional and detention staff so both sides are more able to effectively utilize each other to benefit inmates and their families.
The History of CIT
CIT for Law Enforcement began in Memphis, TN in the late 1980s after a tragedy involving a person with serious mental illness. The community came together with the Police Director and the Mayor of Memphis to find a more effective way for officers to respond to persons with mental illness in crisis. The partnerships that helped create CIT included the Police Department, Memphis University, The University of Tennessee Regional Medical Center, Veterans Administration Medical Center, Lakeside Hospital, other mental health centers, National Alliance on Mental Illness, family members and other advocates. This model takes a team approach and engages community stakeholders, including corrections agencies, local mental health agencies, family advocacy groups and others, in a collaborative and responsive effort to manage and support justice involved persons with mental illness.
In 2010, The National Institute of Corrections realized that there was an opportunity to formally introduce the CIT Law Enforcement Model to corrections and detention agencies. The CIT Program for Corrections and Detention applies to jails, prisons and community agencies alike. It focuses on building an agency’s capacity to implement a locally owned and administered CIT program and the training for that program.
From December 2010 to March 2014, NIC implemented Phase I of its CIT Program for Corrections and Detentions. During this time staff, representing 19 jail systems, 20 state departments of corrections, and one team from U.S. Probation and Parole, was trained in the tenets of CIT. These three-person teams (mental health advocate, operations executive, behavioral health clinician) were encouraged to take the information learned at the National Corrections Academy in Aurora, Colorado back to their respective agencies to strategically plan the implementation of a locally-owned CIT program. In June 2014, NIC implemented Phase II(also referred to as a Partnership Training Program) of its CIT initiative. This 40-hour classroom based CIT program is held at a host state department of correction or jail.
Implementing CIT with NIC
The Partnership Training Program involves a simultaneous meeting and training schedule whereby the host agency’s Executive Steering Committee for CIT is briefed on the tenets of CIT, how to replicate and sustain the CIT Program while staff receives the 40-hour CIT classroom-based instruction.
In preparation for the training, NIC will conduct a site visit and tour of the facility and the training location with agency command staff.