Mental Health and Reoffending Issues Are Dealt with in Arizona County Jail Program


Many jails contain house numbers of inmates who suffer from mental illnesses. Jail administrators in Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office were surprised to learn more than half of inmates in detention had been diagnosed with mental health problems.

The revelation in 2015 sparked action by the sheriff’s office.

The Verde Valley’s reported on how jail authorities set up a program to tackle reoffending and issues such as mental health problems and substance abuse.

Four years ago, the authorities found of 492 inmates in county detention that year, 52 percent were diagnosed with a psychosis. They were receiving prescribed medication for their conditions.  A massive 70 percent struggled with substance abuse. Many inmates were jailed for minor crimes, often not involving violence.

Reoffending tackled in new jail program

Arizona jail program tackles reoffending

YCSO Chief Deputy David Rhodes, who oversees jail operations, was blunt in his assessment. He told

“It was a systemic failure and it still is. All over the state and all over the nation, mentally ill people spend longer times in jail than people without mental illness.”

They also find it more difficult to get out of jail.

He felt the jail was failing inmates and the community. Many of the defendants who entered the jail re-offended soon after they were released, returning to the county jail. Some even stepped up their offending.

A subtle change began that year. The county jail began screening people for potential mental health issues as soon as they entered the jail. They began a program to help inmates avoid re-offending after they leave. All too often people who are incarcerated are stranded with little support in the community. They end up homeless and habitually re-offend.

The anti-recidivism program was dubbed the Reach Out program. It has grown as it received grants from many sources, including the Northern Arizona Regional Behavioral Health Authority Institute, the Federal Bureau of Justice Administration, and the state of Arizona. In March 2018, the jail started recording more accurate statistics on inmates to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Last July, it hired a social worker who was previously the Justice Liaison at Health Choice Integrated Care.

The program aims to support former inmates with mental illnesses when they return to the community.  The jail checks up on them with the service providers they partnered with after 30 days and then again after 90 days to see if they made progress. Other agencies get involved in the partnership.

Although the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office program is in its infancy, its supporters are optimistic. They believe it’s the first of its kind in the country.

It’s not unusual for jails and prisons in Arizona to contain a large number of people who suffer from mental illnesses. Facilities often fail to provide adequate help.

In places like Maricopa County, mentally ill inmates are often held in solitary confinement.

Attorney Bernardo Garcia focuses his practice on people with mental illnesses who are charged with crimes. Call him today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arizona Laws, Mental Health | Tagged |

Is There a Relationship Between Mental Illness and Homicide?


Many studies that tackled the issue of the relationship between mental illness and homicide have detected mental disorders in many defendants charged with extreme cases of violence.

For example, a study of 71 people convicted of murder (excluding vehicular homicide) in Contra Costa County, California, found 49 of them suffered from serious mental disorders.

Experts study homicide and mental illness

Is there a link between mental illness and homicide?

The diagnoses included multiple infarct dementia, chronic paranoid schizophrenia, antisocial personality disorders, and psychosis linked to drugs like methamphetamine

The study found most people convicted of homicide were not legally incompetent or mentally ill by “common standards.”  However, a high percentage of murderers appeared to be mentally ill.

Other research suggests the California study may overestimate the link between mental illness and homicides.

More recent research carried out into people convicted of homicides in the United Kingdom, found 545 of the 1594 defendants suffered from a mental disorder, amounting to 34 percent. Of these, 149 received a diminished responsibility verdict in which a judge and jury acknowledged the role a mental disorder played in the crime.

Most of the killers who had a mental disorder had not been treated by psychiatric services. This is a theme we see over and over again. People with mental disorders are more likely to commit violent crimes if their condition goes untreated.

Unfortunately, many people with mental illnesses in Arizona do not receive proper treatment for their conditions.

A 2016 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center called Serious Mental Illness and Homicide found people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders are responsible for about 10 percent of all homicides in the United States. For mass killings, the percentage rises to about 33 percent.

Steven P. Segal of the University of California at Berkeley analyzed homicide rates by states. The academic found state homicide rates rose in states with stricter involuntary treatment policies. It appears to be more difficult to treat those in need of help when they are forced into institutions.

At the Garcia Law Firm, we have worked with mentally ill defendants for years. We are well aware of their needs and factors that make violent crime more likely. We are adept at presenting a full picture to the courts in Arizona. Please contact us today if you loved one has been charged with a violent crime.

Posted in Mental Health, Violent Crime | Tagged |

Mental Health and Crimes Against Children in Arizona


Crimes against children often result in heavy sentences. As well as serving long sentences, people who commit them often end up on sex offenders’ registers after their release from prison. When a mentally ill family member is accused of crimes against children, the ordeal can be overwhelming.

Sexual crimes against children are understandably shocking to society. However, these are difficult cases because they may rely on the testimony of a young child with no other corroborating evidence.

When a defendant has mental health issues, the problems are compounded when he or she is faced with accusations of crimes against children in Arizona.

Mental health and crimes against children

Understanding mental health and crimes against children

Since the 1980s, studies suggested children are more prone to “false-memory reports” than adults. Some research has questioned this claim.

However, other studies pointed to an increase of false memories between early childhood and adulthood.

In 2013, a study by Mark L. Howe of City University London questioned the accuracy of child witnesses in court cases.

“Memory often serves as the key or only evidence in the courtroom,” Howe wrote in Nature Reviews Neuroscience. He claimed police officers, jurors, and judges “are naive when it comes to understanding how memories are formed, how they become distorted over time, and how stress and emotion affect remembering.”

He said few people have an accurate sense of memory until they reach the age of eight.

Although the metaphorical jury is out on the science, it’s clear that courtroom juries routinely hand out lengthy prison sentences to those convicted of crimes against children in Arizona.

These accusations carry a heavy stigma, even when defendants are acquitted of crimes. Those convicted of crimes against children can lose access and custody of their own children. These crimes place family relationships under intense strain. When the defendant also struggles with a mental health disorder, the turmoil can prove too much.

Many studies point to a link between child abuse and neglect, and mental illness. Others suggest people who were abused as children are more likely to be abusers. When people with mental health issues are charged with crimes against children, they face an uphill battle to fight these preconceptions.

Although allegations of crimes against children test family relationships, it’s important to support your family member as much as possible.

Attorney Bernardo Garcia will represent you or your loved ones whether the charges include crimes against children, aggravated assaultsex crimes, or any other alleged offenses against children Please contact the Garcia Law Firm at (602) 340-1999 for a free consultation in English or Spanish.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged |

What Sentences Do Mentally Ill People Charged With Robbery Face in Arizona?


Mentally ill people charged with robbery often face long prison sentences. It’s important to highlight your issues if you have been charged with this serious offense.

Robbery offenses are felonies in Arizona. The consequences of this charge are severe. Under state law, robbery is a class 4 felony. Class 4 felonies carry a presumptive term of two years and six months in prison and an aggravated term of three years and nine months.

A defendant commits a robbery if he or she threatens or uses forces against another while taking any property of another from him and against his will.

Mentally ill people charged with robbery

What happens to Mentally ill people charged with robbery?

Robberies can carry an even higher prison sentence. An aggravated robbery in which the defendant is accused of having an accomplice is charged as a class 3 felony.

When the accused is charged with armed robbery, which entails having a dangerous or a deadly weapon, or simulating a weapon during the robbery, he or she is charged with a Class 2 felony. Armed robbery is classified as a “dangerous offense” under Arizona law. Even a first armed robbery conviction carries a sentencing range of seven to 21 years prison, fines of $750 to $150,000 fines, and other costs.

Defendants with a previous conviction for a dangerous offense could spend almost three decades in a state prison for armed robbery.

People who suffer from mental illnesses are often charged with robberies. Last year, a man reported to be mentally unstable was arrested in Graham County, Arizona, after an alleged robbery at a convenience store with a knife. Media reports claimed he told police he believed the Mexican drug cartels were out to get him.

The Arizona justice system is a blunt instrument for people with mental illnesses. If you or a family member has been accused of robbery and have struggled with illness, it’s important to contact an Arizona-based criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

Posted in Mental Health, Violent Crime | Tagged |

Which Crimes Are Dealt with in Mental Health Courts in Arizona?


Mental health courts in Arizona are expanding but not all defendants are eligible to use them. Defendants charged with the most serious crimes are typically not dealt with by mental health courts.

Mental health courts are a diversionary program intended to give offenders an alternative to prison. More jurisdictions on Arizona have set up mental health courts in recent years.

Mental health courts often help offenders charged with felonies. A report in the Arizona Sun about a court in Flagstaff noted there were 28 participants in the program representing 53 separate cases.

Which offenses are handled by the mental health courts in Arizona

The scope of mental health courts in Arizona

Most of those taking part were charged with felonies. Crimes dealt with by the courts included aggravated assault, trafficking in stolen property, disorderly conduct with a weapon, domestic violence, aggravated DUI, possession of marijuana or methamphetamine, and arson.

Pima County also has mental health courts. The county’s website states defendants determined to be seriously mentally ill (SMI) by the Regional Behavioral Health Authority are eligible.

However, defendants charged with murder, sexual assault, child molestation, and some domestic violence crimes cannot enter the diversion program.

In Pima County, defendants must have charges that are eligible for probation to apply for the mental health court. Defendants are transferred to the court and sentenced by a presiding mental health court judge.

The court sets conditions for the defendant and provides a team of support professionals to help and monitor his or her progress.

The court holds regular compliance hearings to monitor the defendant’s progress.

In 2018, Pima County’s Attorney’s Office launched a misdemeanor problem-solving court. The new service provides mental health and substance use treatment, along with a range of other services, for high-risk or high-need defendants, many of them with mental illnesses.

The service was launched with nearly $3 million in federal grant money awarded to the Pima County Attorney’s Office, reported

Mental health courts play an important role in diverting offenders with certain mental disorders away from the prison system. If you or a family member believe you may be eligible, please contact our criminal defense team today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health |

How Often are Defendants Found Guilty Except Insane in Arizona?


The guilty except insane defense in Arizona is used in a relatively small number of cases. GEI, also known as the insanity defense, is difficult to prove in our state.

A report on PBS noted lawyers raise the insanity defense in less than 1 percent of felony cases nationwide and is successful in a fraction of these cases.

An eight-state study commissioned by the National Institute of Mental Health revealed under 1 percent of cases involved the insanity defense. About a quarter of those cases were successful. The vast majority of those cases, about 90 percent, involved defendants who suffered a mental illness.

The Guilty Except Insane in defense Arizona

How common is the Guilty Except Insane defense in Arizona?

Arizona places limits on the insanity or guilty except insane offense. Four states – Kansas, Utah, Idaho, and Montana – have abolished the insanity defense. Nevertheless, defendants are allowed to present evidence of diminished mental capacity to negate the prosecution’s claim they acted with criminal intent.

This evidence is barred from a trial in Arizona, making a GEI defense challenging to assert.

Arizona law states a person may be found guilty except insane “if at the time of the commission of the criminal act the person was afflicted with a mental disease or defect of such severity that the person did not know the criminal act was wrong.”

The definition of a mental disease or defect does not include disorders caused by acute voluntary intoxication or withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, defects of character, psychosexual disorders or impulse control disorders.

If you believe a family member suffers from a mental condition that warrants the insanity defense, it’s important to hire an Arizona criminal defense attorney who focuses on helping mentally ill defendants.

Where a reasonable basis exists for a GEI plea in cases involving actual or threatened death or serious bodily harm, the court can appoint a qualified mental health expert, or commit the defendant for up to 30 days to a secure mental health facility for an evaluation.

If a judge or jury finds the defendant to be guilty except insane the court is required to sentence the defendant to a confinement term equal to the prison sentence he or she would have served had they been found guilty. Previous felonies are not taken into consideration in the calculation of the term.

GEI cases are complicated in Arizona. The odds are stacked against the defendant. It’s important to hire an attorney with considerable experience in this area. Bernardo Garcia has represented hundreds of people diagnosed with a mental illness over more than a quarter of a century of practice. Call him today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged |

Book Raises Fears About Mental Illness, Marijuana and Violence


A new book has raised fears about mental illness, marijuana, and violence. The book claims the drug may induce psychosis and schizophrenia in some users, in particular, young men in their 20s.

However, the book by former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson has also provoked a backlash.

Berenson’s book, Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence draws on a body of research that links the use of the drug to mental disorders and violence.

New book highlights concerns about Mental illness and marijuana

Mental illness and marijuana fears are raised in new book

A report in The Guardian referred to a statement from the American Psychiatric Association in 2013 that points out evidence points to a “strong association of cannabis use with the onset of psychiatric disorders.”

Adolescents were identified as being particularly vulnerable to harm because of the effects of cannabis on their neurological development.

A report on NBC stated scientists have found a link between cannabis use and severe mental illness over two decades. Even in controlled laboratory settings, some people who were given THC, a psychoactive chemical in marijuana, experience hallucinations.

The research suggested cannabis changes structures in the brain, contributing to mental illnesses. One study of more than 50,000 people indicated those who used cannabis during the teen years face a higher risk of developing schizophrenia.

Berensen’s theory is that marijuana causes psychosis. Psychosis causes violence. The obvious implication is that marijuana causes violence.

A report in Medical News Today suggested people who are prone to schizophrenia are more likely to take marijuana which, in turn, may increase the prospects of developing symptoms.

Research shows cannabis use is more common among people with psychosis than among the general population. However, rather than alleviating symptoms it may increase the risk of psychosis.

The study found cannabis can lower levels of the brain chemical dopamine. A reduction in dopamine is associated with fatigue, mood changes, depression, and lack of motivation. Conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder entail low levels of dopamine.

The book was published at a time when Canada has legalized recreational cannabis use along with western U.S. states including Colorado, California, Washington, and Nevada.

An article in Vox questioned Berenson’s reasoning. It said the author overstated the link between marijuana and psychosis.

Some articles have pointed to a link between mental illness and violence. Others found little link. However, studies are far from conclusive. An article published in Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica by a group of academics in Australia and the Institute of Psychiatry in London highlighted a correlation between untreated schizophrenia and higher levels of homicides.

Other studies suggest people with untreated mental conditions are more likely to abuse drugs.

If a family member with a mental disorder has been arrested in Arizona, it’s important to hire an attorney who is familiar with these cases. Call our Phoenix attorney today at (602) 340-1999.


Posted in Drug Crimes, Mental Health | Tagged |

Sundance Festival Highlights How the Criminal Justice System Treats Mental Illness


A high profile movie shown at The Sundance Festival recently highlighted the treatment of people with mental illness by America’s criminal justice system.

Kenneth Rosenberg, a psychiatrist, and director of “Bedlam,” highlighted how the criminal justice system is failing the mentally ill at a movie showcased at the Sundance Festival earlier this year.

Rosenberg described how Los Angeles County Jail in California, Rikers Island in New York City, and Harris County Jail in Texas house almost 44,000 people, reported Deseret News.

The film highlights how many of these inmates suffer from mental illnesses including bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, and depression.

Mental illness is highlighted at Sundance Festival

Sundance film considers Criminal Justice System Treats Mental Illness

Bedlam examines the dismantling of America’s mental care system that left prisons and jails as the front line for people with psychiatric problems.

Rosenberg claims in the movie people who end up in jails frequently do so as a last resort. They cannot access the long-term healthcare they need and end up incarcerated after time on the streets or in emergency rooms.

The film “Bedlam” is named after the infamous psychiatric hospital in London that housed people with mental disorders.

The film describes the dismantling of a once-extensive network of state mental hospitals under President John F. Kennedy. The idea was to return people with mental illnesses into society and provide treatment through community mental health centers.

The government withdrew federal funding from the centers in the 1980s. Many people with mental illnesses ended up on the streets and in jails and prisons.

Rosenberg had first-hand experience of mental illness. His sister was diagnosed with schizophrenia and institutionalized when she was just 20-years-old.

Thousands of people with mental illnesses are locked up in Arizona. In 2014, a report by the Treatment Advocacy Center found mentally ill people are 10 times more likely to end up in jails and prisons in Arizona.

Nationally, about 26 percent of people who are locked up suffer from a mental health disorder, compared to 18 percent of the general public. An article in Arizona Senora News Service estimated more than 11,000 people in the state’s prisons suffer from a mental illness.

The criminal justice system treats mental illness in a blunt way. At the Garcia Law Firm, we champion the rights of people with mental disorders. Please contact us today for a consultation if your loved one has been charged with a criminal offense.


Posted in Mental Health | Tagged |

Solitary Confinement for Mentally Ill Prisoners in Maricopa County Comes Under Fire


The holding of prisoners with mental illnesses in solitary confinement in Arizona has been controversial for many years. Solitary confinement in Maricopa County, in particular, has come under fire.

Articles in the media have highlighted horrendous conditions in Maricopa jails including inmates held in filthy conditions and kept alone for long periods.

Last year, Eric Balaban, a senior staff counsel with the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, highlighted the horrendous conditions that mentally ill inmates in Maricopa County Jail’s Special Management Unit face.

solitary confinement in Maricopa County

Concerns over solitary confinement in Maricopa County

He called for an end of the practice of inmates with mental illness being held on their own in cells.

The Problem of Mentally Ill Prisoners Being Held in Solitary Confinement

Last year, an investigation in The Guardian pointed out over 4,000 prisoners with serious mental illness were held in solitary confinement in jails and prisons in the United States.

Law researchers at Yale University joined forces with the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA). The survey revealed shocking findings. The research team found prisoners with severe mental health issues are being kept in isolation for at least 22 hours a day. They are often held alone for as long as 15 continuous days.

Arizona is not alone in using solitary confinement. The ASCA and Arthur Liman Center at Yale law school found that most U.S. states hold mentally ill individuals in isolation. Of 33 states that responded to the survey, only Texas said it does not hold people with mental illnesses in isolation.

It is deeply disturbing that states such as Arizona continue to hold people with mental illnesses in solitary confinement instead of seeking to address their issues.

Judith Resnik, a law professor at Yale warned solitary confinement has a terrible impact on inmates and exacerbates their mental health issues. She said.

“Solitary confinement is a disabling setting that is harmful for human health and safety. It can do harm for people who are mentally OK and inflict terrible damage on people who are already mentally ill.”

Research points to the harmful effects of solitary confinement on the mentally ill. A study carried out on behalf of the New York jails system found inmates held alone are seven times more likely to harm themselves than the general prison population.

Solitary confinement in Maricopa County has come under fire from a range of sources.

Last year, Brianna Westbrook, a transgender activist arrested during a protest in October claimed Maricopa County jail guards discriminated against her by putting her in solitary confinement due to her gender identity.

If you or a family member with a mental illness has been arrested in Maricopa County, please call the Garcia Law Firm at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged |