“Human Toll of Jail” Project Highlights Unique Stories of Mental Health Issues, Recidivism

Keri Blakinger

It started as a two-year pilot program, but the New Orleans mental illness diversion court has proved that it is a step in the right direction for mental health care.

Though the court seeks toimprove outcomes for those with mental health issues and criminal justice involvement, its creator, Judge Desiree Charbonnet, recognized that a court alone couldn’t solve the overarching problem at hand. That’s why she partnered with the grant-funded Community Alternatives Program, which connects those in need with the treatment, healthcare coverage and housing they need to stay out of the system.

It’s a forward-thinking initiative, and it’s just one of many highlighted in a new project launched by the Vera Institute and the MacArthur Foundation. The Human Toll of Jail includes a series of essays, videos, comics and other multimedia journalism to shine a light on unique and unexpected voices in the criminal justice system.

Another voice that…

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