Nneka Jones Tapia on “Trauma in the Criminal Justice System: Communities in Need of Healing”

Nneka Jones Tapia's seminars will be held on Wednesdays at 3:30pm.

All IOP Pritzker Fellows Seminars will be held in the IOP Living Room unless otherwise noted. 
All seminars are students only and closed to press/off the record.


With more than 20% of the nation’s incarcerated population diagnosed with a mental illness, correctional institutions have been forced to transition beyond their traditional roles of confinement and into the role of a social support system. This trend has given our nation’s correctional professionals a unique vantage point on the consequences of the societal ills that plague our communities. As a part of the larger community, the correctional community has a responsibility to utilize its expertise to assist other partners of the justice system with their evolution towards a more supportive role, particularly with populations that have historically been victimized by these systems. Trauma is pervasive throughout the criminal justice system and the community at large.  In this seminar series, we will review the prevalence of trauma and its impact throughout (or in parts of) the criminal justice system and the surrounding community.  In each seminar, we will examine programs that are making innovative strides towards healing a broken system and community and discuss how they can evolve and be replicated to improve the criminal justice system on a broad scale.

Session 1 (April 4): The Cycle of Violence in the Criminal Justice System | RSVP

From arrest to incarceration to reintegration, elements of trauma are prevalent in both the community and law enforcement. For example, the Center for Disease Control reported that between 2000 and 2014, firearms were responsible for almost 470,000 deaths, the second leading cause of all violence-related deaths during this 14-year period. Gun violence has reverberating impact throughout communities, particularly on those left behind. Individuals with direct or indirect exposure to such traumas are at increased risk of exhibiting symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, including heightened responses to situations that may lead them to becoming the perpetrator of violence. Because correctional institutions are charged with holding individuals who have perpetrated violence and likely have experienced violence themselves, these environments are not exempt from the ongoing cycle of violence. Instead, individuals are at increased risk of exposure to violence in correctional institutions. In this seminar, we will discuss the cycle of violence that occurs in criminal justice, focusing on communities and correctional institutions.

Session 2 (April 11): The New Asylums: Mental Illness in Corrections Institutions | RSVP

The prevalence of mental illness in correctional institutions is at such a critical volume that jails are often called ‘the new asylums.’ The largest psychiatric institutions in the US are not hospitals. They are correctional institutions. Los Angeles County Jail, Riker’s Island Jail in New York and Cook County Jail in Chicago all hold more individuals with serious mental illness than any psychiatric hospital in the country. This phenomenon has changed the landscape of correctional institutions, requiring them to make significant changes to training, staffing, the provision of services to the staff and inmate populations and their overall role in the larger community. This seminar will take a close look at ways to manage and mitigate the problem.

Session 3 (April 18): The Impact of Trauma on Law Enforcement | RSVP

More than 50% of adults in the US are exposed to a severe stressor at some point in their lifetime. That percentage spikes significantly for firefighters and police. Police Officers experience more than three traumatic events in every six months of service. These traumatic events may include handling dead bodies, responding to severe traffic accidents and abuse victims and responding to violent acts such as those involving weapons. Increased exposure to traumatic events can result in poorer sleep quality, increased prevalence of alcohol use and a higher incidence of mental health problems such as PTSD and depression. The US has more than 900,000 sworn Officers, and research indicates that approximately 19% of them may meet the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder. We will discuss the impact of exposure to severe stressors in law enforcement and the efforts being made to address the problem.

Special Guest: Rashanda Carroll, Director, Cook County Sheriff's Office of Peer Support

Session 4 (April 25): Youth Violence & Programs to Stop It | RSVP

Homicide is the third leading cause of death in individuals aged 10-24 years of age. In 2011, 4,708 young people aged 10-24 were victims of homicide. In 2011, there were approximately 142 young people with nonfatal injuries related to physical assault treated in emergency departments for every young homicide victim. In a 2013 study of high school students, the CDC found that nearly 18% reported carrying a weapon and 5.5% reported carrying a gun at least one day in the previous month. Youth violence affects African American youth (28.8 for every 100,000) at a disproportionate rate compared to White youth (2.1 for every 100,000). Youth violence tends to be significantly higher in cities than in suburban areas. Youth violence is often the result of a combination of individual, interpersonal, community and societal risk and protective factors. In this seminar, we will explore those factors specific to youth violence and review evidence-based prevention programs that have been implemented across the country that are working to reduce the prevalence of violence.

Special Guest: Teny Gross, Executive Director, Institute for Nonviolence Chicago

Session 5 (May 2): The Next Gen: Children of Incarcerated Parents | RSVP

An estimated 10 million children in the US have experienced the incarceration of a parent at some point in their lifetime, and minority children are significantly overrepresented. One in 9 African American children are impacted compared to 1 in 57 White children. Initial studies of this population have been problematic in the assertion of negative generalizations, for example, that children of incarcerated parents were more likely to engage in criminal activity and more likely to be incarcerated. While the impact of parental incarceration varies as a number of factors are considered, studies show that the children with an incarcerated parent are at increased risk of issues related to attachment, school-related problems and interpersonal difficulty. There are several protective factors that can mitigate these risks. In this seminar, we will talk openly about the experiences of children with an incarcerated parent and how and how protective factors implemented by families, teachers, community members and community organizations can lead to successful outcomes. 

Special Guest: Dr. Michele Payne, Cook County Sheriff’s Office

Session 6 (May 9): Seeking Solutions: Cook County’s Mental Health Transition Center | RSVP

The Cook County Department of Corrections currently houses approximately 6,000 inmates. On any given day, there are more than 2,000 individuals being treated for a serious mental illness. Due to a number of factors, Cook County Jail, like so many other correctional institutions, experienced a significantly high recidivism rate among inmates with mental illness. In an effort to stop the revolving door, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office developed the Mental Health Transition Center (MHTC) in 2014. The MHTC offers cognitive behavioral treatment focused on changing criminal thinking and negative thought patterns, as well as educational, enrichment and vocational skills programming. A hallmark of the program is its alumni meetings. Participants who have been released are invited to voluntarily return to the jail for ongoing therapy, case management and support. In this seminar, we will discuss the program and evaluation results.

Special Guests: First Lady of New York Chirlane McCray & Graduates of the Mental Health Transition Center (MHTC)

Session 7 (May 16): Violence as a Public Health Issue | RSVP

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines violence as ‘the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.’ Public health traditionally focuses on the prevention of health problems and aims to offer better health and safety to larger populations, and not just individual cases, as a matter of policy. In this seminar, we will take a deeper dive into the exploration of violence as a public health issue and review a program that has taken this approach.

Special Guest: Dr. Eugene Griffin, National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Session 8 (May 23): Chicago: Our Collective Responsibility to Heal the City | RSVP

What does a community in healing look like? From law enforcement to perpetrators of violence to victims of violence and children, a more thoughtful plan is necessary to mitigate the negative outcomes of violence. It is not the responsibility of one entity; instead, there must be a collective responsibility to make positive change. In the final seminar, we will explore what it takes to heal a city that has experienced significant trauma.