Mayor Introduces Mental Health Initiative in NYC Courts System

By Jess Wisloski on December 23, 2012 12:48pm 

 Manhattan Criminal Courthouse. Mayor Bloomberg announced a mental health initiative that will enable the city to offer more support to mentally ill criminals, on Dec. 23, 2012.
Manhattan Criminal Courthouse. Mayor Bloomberg announced a mental health initiative that will enable the city to offer more support to mentally ill criminals, on Dec. 23, 2012.
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Irene Plagian/DNAinfo

NEW YORK CITY — In an effort to curb crimes, lessen the cost of incarceration, and provide support for mentally ill criminals, Mayor Bloomberg announced an initiative to redirect mentally ill criminals into more appropriate treatment programs.

“If more New Yorkers who need mental health care and community support can be helped to get their lives on track when they’ve run afoul of the law, we will all be better off,” said the mayor.

“No one needs to be reminded any more of just how important it is to get this group of people the care they need.”

Under the new initiative, court-based trained resource teams would provide data based on a defendant's mental health care needs to advise judges on risk likelihood and specific treatment needs that could help judges take more appropriate action than has been taken in the past, Bloomberg said.

On average, 36 percent of the inmates in New York City currently suffer from mental illness, up from 25 percent in 2005, and that means longer jail stays on average (112 days compared to 60 days for non-mentally ill), the city noted in a release.

Incarcerated young adults, aged 16 to 18, and women have a much higher rate of mental illness in the city, at 42 percent and 58 percent respectively.

The new system will allow some mentally ill patients to be released from jail and into community supervision and treatment while their cases are pending in court. Others who do not seem likely to be re-arrested but who might be a flight risk will be eligible for "alternatives to incarceration," such as inpatient treatment options, the city said.

Inmates with mental illness cost the city three times as much money to incarcerate than those without, because of the high cost of resources needed, and extended jail stays, according to the city.

“With the creation of these teams, court officials in New York City will receive the information they need to make better decisions about custody and assignment to community-based programs,” said John Feinblatt, the mayor's chief policy advisor.

“New York City is poised to set a new standard for providing resources to support those with mental health issues in large metropolitan areas.”

The announcement came weeks after Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old suspected of having a mental disorder, entered an Newtown, Conn. elementary school and shot 26 children and school workers to death. Lanza, who had killed his mother earlier at her home, eventually turned the gun on himself, leaving in his wake the second largest mass school killing in the U.S.

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