Skip to main content

PACEsConnectionCommunitiesPACEs in the Criminal Justice System

PACEs in the Criminal Justice System

Discussion and sharing of resources in working with clients involved in the criminal justice system and how screening for and treating ACEs will lead to successful re-entry of prisoners into the communityΒ and reduced recidivism forΒ former offenders.


I have spent over a decade working at the intersection of mental health and social/criminal justice systems, but it wasn't until recently when I started collecting ACE scores with the inmates I work with in county jails. Prior to working in the jails, I worked in the state prison system, where I did mental health intake evaluations at the state prison where all offenders in Minnesota enter through. So often, in the back of my mind, was the thought that "if only these guys had the right services and support in place, maybe they wouldn't have ended up in here."
I used to just think it was basic mental heath services that needed to be put in place, primarily for people with SPMI diagnoses, but the medical model that dominated (and still dominates in some places) the decision making processes completely left out the fact that so much of what was manifesting with this population was directly related to trauma. People didn't just need medications and counseling/therapy to deal with and manage their symptoms, they needed to learn about how their childhood trauma literally changed their brain, and that they can heal from this. When I started collecting ACE scores, in order to get a baseline snapshot of an persons past trauma, I found that the average score for an adult male who is likely heading to prison was 7.25; for adult black males it was slightly higher. I cannot tell you how many times I am the first person an inmate comes across that asked them "what happened?" instead of "why did you do what you did?"; the tears flow regularly in my office when these questions are asked.

I ran across this video the other day, and it gave me a lot of hope, and thought it would be worth sharing. I am hoping that the "Trauma Informed Care" approach can continue to be broadened within the criminal justice system, and right now it likely will come one provider/counselor/correctional officer, etc., at a time.

<iframe src="" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; fullscreen" allowfullscreen></iframe>
<p><a href="">Step Inside the Circle</a> from <a href="">Fritzi Horstman</a> on <a href="">Vimeo</a>.</p>

Add Comment

Comments (3)

Newest · Oldest · Popular

Thank you Zachary,

Yes, I too saw this video posted on facebook last week.  As a substitute teacher (nowhere near retired), I see my ability to use trauma informed practices is directly enhanced by my learning to address White Supremacy Culture. I'm happy my state education association recently publicly named that. I'm learning that all the many people who've been directly impacted by incarceration have so many practical solutions! Those of us nearer the decision-making (traditionally-- with college +, etc.) can be part of structures so that (most) elected officials will better hear/value the wisdom from people who've been marginalized. While I'm just starting, the more I learn about prison abolition, the more do-able it sounds. I've read it described as 'well-intentioned idealism,' but am seeing that for every blind spot, there are many possibilities. I'll stay tuned here !

Last edited by Anne Hundley
Copyright Β© 2022, PACEsConnection. All rights reserved.
Link copied to your clipboard.