The lack of adequate alternatives to jail or prison to help mentally troubled individuals who run afoul of the law is a “horrible American tragedy,” judges and prosecutors from around the country were told at a New York University School of Law conference.
For lack of alternatives, thousands of mentally ill individuals are trapped in the justice system. In a conversation with TCR, Alisa Roth, author of “Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness,” says change will only happen when we reexamine our attitudes towards mental illness.
A new report from the Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center says that most mass attacks in public spaces are preceded by behavior that worried other people. “There’s no such thing as an impulsive act,” says one expert.
An outbreak of hepatitis A in a number of states highlights the vulnerability of individuals suffering from both mental illness and substance abuse. Those most at risk —the homeless and formerly incarcerated—deserve “compassionate, evidence-based solutions,” says a TCR columnist.
Two white officers shot and killed Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old African American mother of four, after she called 911 in June to report a burglary at her apartment. A police review found the shooting reasonable. An attorney for the dead woman’s family said, “If her killing was within policy and training, we need changes in policy and training.”
Efforts to close facilities like the Rikers Island jail complex in New York won’t work unless authorities find alternative ways to deal with seriously mentally ill individuals who run afoul of the justice system, says New York’s former chief judge.
More than 80 inmates tried to hang themselves so far this year, and 138 attempted drug overdoses, at a time when the Arizona Department of Corrections is under fire over allegedly inadequate health care. The state still has no mental health director, according to a report by the Phoenix public radio station.
The term has been used as media shorthand for any defense in which the accused blames the consumption or use of some substance for his or her actions. It’s long past time to replace it with a more nuanced description, writes a former New York prosecutor.
A new book argues that mental health authorities’ failure to address the public safety challenge posed by individuals with serious mental illness unfairly shifts the burden to police and the courts. DJ Jaffe, the author, explains why in a conversation with The Crime Report.
Police around the country are learning how to step back from confrontations that can lead to tragedy. But additional reforms are needed to help divert individuals with serious and untreated mental illness from the justice system.