Mental health courts are playing an increasingly important role in Arizona’s criminal justice system. However, the state’s prison population continues to rise making the case for the use of alternatives to incarceration.
More than 100 stakeholders in the state are pressing for alternatives, reported Tuscon.com.
From April to October 2018, Arizona Town Hall hosted 17 forums. Community members and employees of the local criminal justice system were invited to talk about the kinds of changes needed to reverse the rising prison population. The report noted the number of people incarcerated in Arizona rose by 60 percent since 2000.
That’s significantly above a national rise of 6 percent over the same period, according to reports compiled by the lobbying group FWD.us.
The report notes Arizona has the fourth-highest imprisonment rate in the nation and spends $1.1 billion on its prison system every year. It considers how Arizona can provide better services for mentally ill people who get into trouble with the law.
A final report considered the setting of goals for Arizona’s criminal justice system, the impacts mental illness and substance abuse, and the criminal charging process.
The report emphasized the need for a holistic approach to the issues facing Arizona’s criminal justice system.
The provision of better funding and access to addiction and mental health treatment were among the key demands in the report. It recommended adding a behavioral or mental health response option to 911 calls, better case management for people who returned to their communities after spending time in jail, and better transition and re-entry programs for defendants.
Arizona Justice System is Committed to Mental Health Courts
In a recent policy document, the Committee on Mental Health and the Justice System vowed to consider the following measures to develop mental health courts including:
- Overseeing the creation of a model guide to help judges develop protocols to work with people with mental and behavioral healthcare needs and the criminal justice system.
- Set up a summit to share the guide with judges, mental health professionals, court professionals, and justice system stakeholders across Arizona.
- Review standards at Arizona mental health court standards to gauge how performance measures to include additional data and to examine data analytics. The committee will look at mental health courts in other jurisdictions and evaluate how they work.
- Review laws and rules and how they can be improved for defendants with mental illnesses.
- Oversee the implementation of recommendations of the Fair Justice Task Force on mental health courts as approved by the Arizona Judicial Council.
- Identify ways to educate the public on the process of mental health courts and how they help defendants with mental illnesses.
Mental health courts in Arizona play a key role in keeping people with psychological and mental issues out of jail. See our blog to find out if you may be eligible.
If you believe the criminal justice system is failing to help your loved one’s specific needs please call our Arizona criminal defense lawyers at (602) 340-1999.