Mayor: $130m to revamp nyc jails for mentally ill

The New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today that he wants to spend $130 million over four years to overhaul how the city deals with mentally ill and drug-addicted suspects, diverting many to treatment instead of the troubled Rikers Island jail.

The announcement comes after two recent deaths of mentally ill inmates.

The reforms are aimed largely at inmates with mental-health or substance-abuse problems who repeatedly end up in jail on minor offenses because there is nowhere else for them to go.

The changes, which do not require city council approval, include offering stepped-up training for police to identify such suspects, using drop-off treatment centers for low-level offenders and allowing more leeway for judges to order supervised release and treatment instead of jail. They draw on reforms already tried in Seattle, Washington D.C., and Louisville, Kentucky.

In general, diversion courts (drugs, mental health, veterans) save tremendous amounts of tax dollars because putting people in the right kind of rehabilitative setting is not only less expensive than traditional incarceration, it’s also far more effective at reducing recitivism.

Further–a lot of these people are not walking free after conviction. They’re receiving treatment *while *they’re incarcerated. Not all are incarcerated, but many are.

Go to jail, successfully complete the program, get out of jail early. Screw up again, and you’re in jail. Period.

Not such a good and compassionate idea, in my view. Its too black and white.

Lets say we have a combat veteran suffering PTSD and becomes a raging alcoholic. His drinking leads to criminal activities. The criminal activities lead to conviction. The conviction leads to treatment in lieu of a sentence. Treatment includes addressing both the substance abuse issue (alcohol) and PTSD.

Now lets say he has a PTSD relapse (not uncommon, many mental illnesses are seldom “cured”. PTSD leads back down the same ugly path…PTSD>substance abuse>criminal activity>arrest.

rears its ugly head again (these mental illnesses are not “cured”, but require continual treatment, sending him down the same road of alcohol abuse>criminal activity>arrest.

The criminal activity and substance abuse are often the symptoms of the PTSD.

In this case, Go to jail, successfully complete the program, get out of jail early. Screw up again, and you’re in jail. Period (especially the “Period”), seems like punishing for illness…especially illness that he did nothing to subject himself to, except by volunteering to defend our country.

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