The defendants in Denver’s Courtroom 151P look different but they share an invisible trait – mental illness – that often sends them careening smack into a city ordinance, says the Denver Post. They ricochet, again and again, into jail. Or detox. Or the emergency room. Following more than 250 examples nationwide, Denver is beginning to see progress more than halfway through a three-year program that seeks to put select nonviolent, mentally ill offenders into treatment instead of behind bars.
The program, called Court to Community, said that the first 41 participants accounted for 1,873 jail days before entering the program. One year into the program, that figure for those same people had dropped to 376 jail days. Estimated savings: Nearly $105,000 – a figure that, theoretically, would multiply each year the participants stay out of trouble. For the most part, the court operates in a relaxed atmosphere, with Assistant City Attorney Bob Reynolds advising the judge of an individual’s successes or missteps and then offering either encouraging words or suggestions for remedial action. When their status has been discussed and their next appearance set, the participants select a snack from a basket in the courtroom.