Mental Health Court
Provide grants for Mental Health Courts which divert individuals with co-occurring disorders from the criminal justice system to treatment services.
Gretchen Rohr commented
Mental health courts at times funnel individuals who could simply plead out quickly of misdemeanor offenses into involuntary treatment that often leads to finding of noncompliance. I strongly encourage any new grants to require new courts limit their eligibility to felony including violence offenses in order to provide true diversion for the most needed population.
Bob Bennett commented
Samhsa should review Supreme Court decisons; particularly, Imbler v. Pachtman, 1976 , which held that a prosecutor cannot be held liable for deliberate malicious and dishonest actions, which often affects individuals with a mental health diangosis, as well as 1966 Miranda v. Arizona U.S. Supreme Court decision . This decision, perhaps best known for requiring police officers to read a person his or her rights, also requires county governments to pay for criminal defense attorneys for everyone without adequate funds facing six months imprisonment or more. It is also the first of many unfunded mandates. This decision offends many in law enforcement, not just for the added expense, but perhaps more importantly, for removing responsibility for an individuals’ own liberty and freedom from the hands of the accused and into the hands of government employees. In states like Nevada, a one day difference between the requirements of this decision and state law add millions of dollars of expenses every year for each county. The plea bargain system was the remedy prosecutors settled on to avoid the high cost of public defenders. They did this without any public input. While used sparingly in the first decade and a half following Miranda, by the early eighty’s it became standard practice for all defendants who lack the funds to hire their own attorneys (often those with a mental health diagnosis). Its use is synonymous with abuse. Convictions rose; in Los Angeles County the rate of conviction rose from 81% in 1981 to 98.6% in 1988, falling to 96% in 1996. Figures since that time are unavailable as the State of California stopped publication of The Criminal Justice Profile which it had published for several decades. While high conviction rates are hailed as victories in the ‘War on Crime’, they should be considered as evidence of failures in the justice system.
Those who commit petty crimes are happy with the current plea bargain system, while those who believe they had sufficient mitigating circumstances (including brain problems) to step across the line, or who believe themselves innocent of the charges are disgusted with the system. Public defenders are overwhelmed by the number of clients they are obliged to serve. They typically have less than five minutes to speak with a client. It is impossible to assist a client prepare a defense in this amount of time. Additionally, most public defenders have a low opinion of their clients, and more readily identify with police and prosecutors, so they have no compulsion against forcing clients to accept what the prosecutor believes is in the interest of justice. Under the current plea bargain system, the efforts are made to silence the defendant, especially where public defenders concerns are more about covering up police abuses in order to curry favor with prosecutors.