Mental Health to Be the Focus of Revamped Criminal Justice System

Mental health

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made a proposal Monday to revamp the current criminal justice system to allow more beneficial focus on mental health. Over a four year period, his project proposal will set aside $130 million to assist those with mental health issues or substance abuse problems.

The goal of de Blasio’s project is to break the cycle that currently entraps those who require additional services public services but cannot get them. Those who suffer from mental illness or substance abuse problems are often incarcerated unfairly, and unable to get the assistance they require.

Currently, the number of incarcerations in New York City is incredibly high due to the excessive punishment for minor crimes. Overcrowding at Riker’s Island has also seen the death of two inmates who suffered mental health issues. Clearly something needs to be done.

Of the $130 million proposed, $40 million will come from District Attorney Cyrus Vance. The remainder will be allotted from the city’s budget. Under this proposal, the city could reportedly save over $150,000 annually from inmate housing costs.

Ultimately, by expanding public health services throughout the entire justice system, the number of incarcerations will decrease greatly. There is also a plan to amplify diversion programs and help inmates have an easier transition back into society.

This proposal came at a difficult time where police officers and the justice system are heavily scrutinized. The recent shootings of unarmed individuals has created a large uprising in the general public across the country, many seeking justice for those victims.

New York City currently houses at least 40 percent of inmates who have some type of mental illness or substance abuse problem. Of those inmates, many are repeat offenders who are unable to get out of the “system.”  Making mental health the focus of a newly revamped criminal justice system will help decrease the number of admissions for mental health reasons.

NYC is following a trend of other cities that have also tried to reform. As a part of the project, police officers will receive additional training on identifying suspects to determine their mental health status. The proposal also offers more flexibility in the courtroom, where other treatment options can be presented as well as conditional release under supervision.

Case managers, detox centers, and short term beds also fall under the proposal. It is hoped that case managers can also use community resources to make referrals to those suffering from mental health problems. Ideally, this would keep them off the streets and out of jail.

The detox centers would also serve an additional purpose, providing an option for non-emergent services as well as a holding place for individuals who are in the pre-arraignment process. Mental health will be the focus of a newly revamped criminal justice system, and with these centers in place, individuals can be properly screened and mental health can be assessed.

Mental health is now going to be the focus of a newly revamped criminal justice system. The $130 million proposal came Monday from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Per his proposal, the next four years will see a genuine change in a flawed system that will be redesigned to help those who suffer from mental health problems and substance abuse issues.

By Kerri Cushna

Sources:

Photo by Norman Walsh – Flickr License

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