Mental Health Minimum Standards

Mental Health Minimum Standards

The delivery of correctional health and mental health services is a critical part of the Board's mission. Spurred by its longstanding concern about inmate suicides, the Board held public hearings in the early 1980s to explore the quality and availability of mental health services provided to inmates. Thereafter, the Board worked collaboratively with the Departments of Correction, Health and Mental Hygiene, the Mayor's Office of Operations, the Office of Management and Budget and contract service providers to develop Mental Health Minimum Standards for the City's jails.

When the Mental Health Standards were implemented in 1985, New York City became the first jurisdiction in the country to voluntarily require the provision of appropriate mental health staffing and other resources to individuals incarcerated in its jails.

The results were immediate and significant. In 1986, the first full year of Standards implementation, there were three suicides – down from 11 the preceding year.

Key elements of these Standards include:

  • Mental health screening of all incoming inmates within 24 hours of their arrival in DOC custody
  • Training of correctional and medical staff in the recognition of mental and emotional disorders
  • Special housing areas for inmates with mental or emotional disorders in need of close supervision
  • 24-hour access to mental health services personnel for emergency psychiatric care, and
  • An inmate observation aide program that employs trained, carefully-selected inmates to help monitor those inmates identified as potential suicide risks.

Full Text of Mental Health Minimum Standards