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Mental Health and Criminal Justice

What is the issue?

People who are justice involved and living with mental health problems and illnesses face a variety of challenges that can worsen their mental health. Incarceration experiences and stressors can intensify existing conditions, create new ones, and hinder recovery and healing. Among these stressors are

  • being isolated from their community supports and services upon incarceration
  • facing inadequate or unavailable mental health services in corrections facilities (e.g., fragmented, not culturally safe or trauma informed)
  • having to rely on segregation and pharmacology as the primary means of intervention
  • grappling with stigma, discrimination, and systematic exclusion from employment, housing, and health services after their discharge.

What are we doing?

Developing an action plan for Canada

We are leading the development of an action plan for Canada to support the mental health of people who interact with the criminal justice system by enabling personal, social, and system change.

The action plan was inspired by continuous calls for action on decades-old efforts to produce meaningful change. It is supported by leaders and experts in the field and by people with lived and living experience of criminal justice involvement and mental health concerns or illnesses.

The scope of the action plan includes several priorities and cross-cutting considerations.

The following resources have laid the foundation and show why the action plan is needed:

Exploring mental health needs in the criminal justice system

Supporting people who are transitioning from corrections to the community

Looking at the impact of COVID-19 on corrections

Related Initiatives
The Working Mind First Responders

Reducing stigma and increasing resiliency in first responders

Mental Health First Aid for Police

A course to help improve police interactions where mental health may be an issue


The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) created a number of resources to help reduce the over-representation of people with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system. Click on the links below for more information.

In this 60-minute webinar, we discuss the mental health impacts of the pandemic on incarcerated populations and correctional settings, as well as recommendations on ways to move forward, to improve…

Background: Transitions from the criminal justice system Criminal justice involvement can include a number of phases, such as being stopped by police, arrested, charged, detained, convicted, sentenced, incarcerated, paroled, or…

The provincial Mental Health and Addictions branch works in partnership with many community services, agencies, and programs to provide a client-focused continuum of care to meet the unique needs of…

There are five Regional Health Authorities (RHA) inBritish Columbia, in addition to the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) and the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA). Each RHA provides mental health…

This inventory was created to establish a living directory of community-based mental health and substance use services and supports throughout Canada for people who are transitioning from the criminal justice…

The provincial Addictions and Mental Health Branch plans and funds mental health policies and programs in New Brunswick. Therapeutic services are provided by Réseau de Santé Vitalité and Horizon Health…

The Nova Scotia Health Authority provides health services to Nova Scotians and some specialized services to other Maritimers and Atlantic Canadians. Personnel from the province’s forensic system note that individuals…

The provincial Department of Health and Community Services plays a lead role in supporting the four Regional Health Authorities and other mandated health and community service agencies that serve Newfoundlanders…

The Government of Nunavut, through the Department of Health, offers community-based outpatient services supporting recovery from substance use and trauma. Within Nunavut there are community-based programs and organizations that offer…