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mental illness

Mental illness is prevalent in the criminal justice system, far beyond defendants pleading innocent for reasons of insanity. Research shows that many convicted felons struggle with mental health conditions; what’s more, if people who needed treatment, got it, it would have an impact on crime rates. Regardless of what a person is dealing with, i.e., addiction, depression, bipolar disorder, treatment is the best way to mitigate the risk of having problems with the law and the rate of recidivism.

In a significant number of cases, people believed to have taken part in crime are not competent to stand trial. In such cases, they are ordered to psychiatric facilities for varying lengths of time. Naturally, beds and support staff are costly; substantial resources are required to provide the care such people need.

Evidence suggests that in California there’s a severe lack of funding to address the needs of mentally ill people in the criminal justice system. In the new state budget for California, Gov. Jerry Brown earmarked $117 million to increase the mental health services for those unable to stand trial, The Los Angeles Times reports. The funds would expand mental health programs and the number of available beds.


Inmate Population With Mental Illness

It’s a promising sign that more judges are seeing the value of treatment over jail time. More Americans struggling with mental illness receive referrals to psychiatric or addiction treatment programs. The changes made in recent years couldn’t have come at a better time, especially when you consider that the 33% mental health population increase in the criminal justice system in last three years, according to the article. While Gov. Brown’s earmarked funds are a good sign, Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) isn’t sure it’s going to suffice.

Over 800 mentally ill inmates are found incompetent to stand trial. An even more significant number of Californians standing trial currently, would be better served by treatment, rather than prison. Studies show that treatment severely impacts crime recidivism. However, the lack resources of available resources and programs make it hard to provide everyone such options; current laws need revision.

“It seems to me that the courts, the behavioral health people, law enforcement, social work — everybody should get together and try to solve that problem,” Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) said at a recent budget committee hearing. “Because it’s like a bottomless pit if we don’t reform.” 

Sen. Beall introduced legislation that, instead of prosecution, would grant judges the power remand mentally ill defendants into pretrial diversion programs for up to two years.


Criminal Defense Attorney


If you are charged with a crime, please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. With over three decades of experience, Attorney Brower can help you achieve the best possible outcome.

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1 comment

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