The interface of mental health issues within the criminal justice system
For more than 30 years, the justice system has criminalized mentally ill persons in crisis. Budgets for social services have been drastically cut and long-term hospitalization is not available nor generally appropriate.
Many mentally ill persons who may act out when ceasing voluntary treatment are enmeshed in the criminal justice system. The Cook County Department of Corrections, better known as the Cook County Jail, is considered one of the largest secure facilities for the mentally ill.
I am proud to have worked on programs seeking to rectify this situation. As Supervisor of the Seniors and Persons with Disabilities Division of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, I was part of the planning committee for the first Felony Mental Health Court. This successful program, where severely mentally ill non-violent offenders receive treatment not incarceration, has been replicated in other jurisdictions throughout the state.
As Executive Director of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, I brought attention to this issue and commissioned studies and brought forth funding projects to expand mental health criminal justice services.
In my private practice, I help families and clients navigate the criminal justice and civil mental health systems to seek justice, and where appropriate treatment.
Baby steps have been made; there is still a long wasy to go to guarantee help for some of society’s most vulnerable persons.