In an effort to reduce the growing number of New York City jail inmates with mental health and substance abuse problems, Mayor Bill de Blasio will significantly expand public health services at almost every step of the criminal justice process, the New York Times reports. Officials, who plant o spend $130 million over four years on the effort, said their goal was to break the revolving door of arrest, incarceration and release that has trapped many troubled individuals in the system for minor, quality-of-life offenses.
The plan will shift emphasis from punishment for minor crimes to treatment. The changes include tripling the size of pretrial diversion and resources devoted to easing the transition from jail back into society. Experts said nothing of such scale had been tried by a municipality before, and that putting the plan into effect would be difficult. “I think this is what criminal justice looks like in the 21st century,” said Elizabeth Glazer, the mayor's criminal justice coordinator. “Preventing crime is about more than the police and more than about prosecutors and defense lawyers and courts.” The overhaul comes at a time when police departments across the U.S. have faced scrutiny after shootings of unarmed individuals, many with mental illnesses.