An investigation into the feasibility of collecting data on the involvement of adults and youth with mental health issues in the criminal justice system

By Maire Sinha, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada

At the request of the National Justice Statistics Initiative, the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) examined the feasibility of collecting data on the involvement of adults and youths with mental health issues in the criminal justice system. The results of the feasibility study will help guide future consideration of the development of ongoing data collection to gather information on the nature and extent of the involvement of individuals with mental illness in the criminal justice system.

The feasibility study has three main goals:

  1. to provide an overview of the history of societal and legislative treatment of mental illness in Canada and studies on the relationship between individuals with mental illness and the criminal justice system;
  2. to consult criminal justice stakeholders on their information priorities, data collection, barriers to data collection, and the feasibility of collecting data on the contact of individuals with mental health issues in the criminal justice system; and
  3. to propose viable options for data collection involving police, courts, and corrections.

The following report is divided into two parts. Section A addresses the first goal of the feasibility study by examining the background of the mental health issue. Section B addresses the remaining goals of the feasibility study in presenting the results of the consultations and proposed options for future data collection.

In response to a demand from the justice community, this current report focuses on issues related to mentally ill individuals who come into contact with the criminal justice system through calls for service to the police, or as accused or offenders in the criminal court and correctional systems. It does not examine issues involving persons with mental illness who are victims of crime.