What are the Conditions for Pleading Mentally Ill

18October
2018

In the state of Arizona, there are times when a person might be able to enter an insanity plea or mental disorder plea. This is when a defendant pleads guilty to a criminal offense, but does not take responsibility for their actions due to insanity or a mental illness.

Photo by Sebastian Pichler on Unsplash

It can be difficult to stand trial when suffering from a mental illness. Arizona does offer the option to take certain cases to Mental Health Courts. These are specialty courts that combine judicial supervision along with community treatment and support for those with a mental illness. Mental Health Courts help reduce criminal activity and improve the quality of life of the defendants. They have been able to reduce incarceration and prevent more crimes from being committed, all while offering help and support.

To be able to enter a mental disorder plea, the defendant must undergo an exam and the results must be disclosed. When pleading mentally ill, this doesn’t mean the defendant is not guilty, but that they were unaware of the criminal offense they were committing because of a mental illness. Arizona uses the M’Naghten Rule to test if the defendant was sane during the time of the crime. Under this rule, the defendant could be found not guilty or receive a lesser sentence if they are unable to determine right from wrong. Essentially, they were unaware they were doing something wrong when committing the crime.

Legal services and representation are available for defendants with a mental illness that commit arson, robbery or even assault. When pleading mentally ill, you could get the treatment you need to change your life, reduce your sentence or go to a mental health facility instead of spending time in jail. In some cases, charges could even be dropped.

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Am I Eligible for Mental Health Court?

26September
2018

If you have a mental illness and are facing charges, dealing with the legal system can be an overwhelming experience. Fortunately, there are certain circumstances where a person with a mental illness can qualify for mental health court, making the process much easier.

What are mental health courts?

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Mental health courts are specialty courts that combine judicial supervision along with community treatment and support for those with a mental illness. The purpose of these courts is to help reduce criminal activity and improve the quality of life of the participants. Mental health courts have seen success by reducing incarceration, preventing more crimes from being committed, and offering help and support.

Who qualifies for mental health courts?

Defendants can only be referred to mental health courts by defense attorneys, judges, service providers, jail staff, or family members. To be considered to participate in mental health court, a defendant must agree to plead guilty. Each program varies by state, but most mental health courts will accept defendants that suffer from a severe mental illness such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Offenses accepted in the courts can range from misdemeanors to felony charges. However, DUIs, sexual offenses, and violent crimes resulting in injury are usually excluded automatically.

Mental health court approval

All defendants are screened early on, either at the jail or by a court staff. Each mental health court is a little different when it comes to what offenses are accepted, all depending on their jurisdiction. All mental illnesses must be diagnosed by a doctor after a comprehensive assessment following the screening process. The defendant must fully agree to comply with all of the mental health courts terms and conditions.

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Mental Health Stigmas

16August
2017

Estimated to affect one in four Americans on average, mental illness is often considered to be a silent epidemic. Mental health stigma is a term used when people experiencing mental health issues are perceived negatively because of their condition, and may even face discrimination. Continue reading to learn about ways in which mental health is stigmatized, why this may make treatment more difficult, and what can be done to change society’s outlook on mental health.

How is Mental Health Stigmatized?

Mental health stigma exists in the workplace, in social settings, and even at the doctor’s office. People suffering from mental health issues generally hide their illness from coworkers in fear of losing their job or the respect of their peers. When people learn their significant other, family member, or friend is suffering from a mental illness, they may subconsciously withhold contact or look at them in a less favorable light. Studies also show that doctors are much less likely to follow up with patients battling depression compared with patients battling a physical illness.

Why Does Mental Health Stigma Make Treatment Increasingly Difficult?

Mental health problems do not discriminate and can affect anyone. People suffering from mental health issues may find themselves in a cycle of unstable relationships, difficulty finding and keeping jobs, and even homelessness. Finding a treatment plan that works can be difficult enough without having to deal with the constant fear of rejection and humiliation which often comes along with mental illness. People may avoid treatment in fear of people discovering their mental illness. When people suffering from mental illness feel ostracized, this acts as a catalyst for their condition to become worse.

What Can be Done to Prevent Mental Health Stigma?

In order to put an end to mental health stigma, people need to be educated on the various forms of mental illness. Many people assume mental illness sufferers are dangerous and violent, creating untrue stereotypes and judgements. Schools and workplaces need to improve mental health programs to educate the public and provide support for people who are suffering from mental illness, as well as the people who are affected by it.

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Tucson Police Will Be Trained in Handling Mental Health

30May
2017

Police officers in Tucson have begun to receive training to better handle mental health crisis calls. Chief Chris Magnus said that 500 officers are expected to complete training by the end of the year. This puts the Tucson Police Department ahead of the rest of the country in mental health training.

Mental Health Support Team

Tucson Police DepartmentThe police department’s Mental Health Support Team are the personnel responsible for going out to de-escalate a crisis in a serious situation, but they are not typically the first responders. Tucson PD aims to have all their patrol officers trained on how to handle mental health crises because they are typically the first to respond.

In the past two years, officers transported 4,060 people in crisis for mental health evaluations and treatment.

Criminal justice workers, law enforcement officers, and behavioral-health experts in Pima County all came together to discuss treatment rather than jail terms for those suffering from mental health and substance abuse at a Decriminalizing Mental Illness conference.

“Two million people a year with mental health and substance abuse issues are incarcerated nationwide. Jails have become de-facto mental health institutions,” said Magnus

The officers will take an eight-hour course that covers situations including how to deal with someone having suicidal thoughts, depression, panic attacks, traumatic events affecting adults or children, acute psychosis, aggressive behavior, and those undergoing substance abuse and need emergency medical treatment. Magnus said there is already a waitlist for officers who want to complete the training.

The people the TPD offers help to are not just people on the street, they are families and friends at every socioeconomic level.

Magnus plans on having every officer on every level of the department trained on mental health crisis, including detectives, dispatchers, supervisors and remaining staff members

Photo by Jerilyn Quintanilla

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Seeking Treatment Instead of Jail Time

15February
2017

Mental health is always difficult to deal with, but can become even more complicated when it leads the the committing of a crime. Whether someone is dealing with addiction or a mental health issue like bipolar disorder, jail time is usually not an efficient solution for the defendant or for society. Seeking treatment instead of jail time is an alternative that can have a very effective outcome.

Prison and Mental Health Don’t Mix

Throwing someone in jail doesn’t make their mental health issues go away. In most cases, it just makes them worse. Their underlying issues will still be there when they are released, making it even more difficult to re-assimilate into society. This will usually then lead to the person ending up back in jail.

Why Is Treatment So Important?

Mental health treatment offers a long term solution to improving a person’s mental health. This in turn will keep those affected with mental health conditions out of prison, and lower over all prison costs for tax payers. Seeking mental treatment isn’t always easy to do but it is a beneficial life decision.

Choosing Treatment Instead of Punishment

Alternative sentencing is usually based on the belief that rehab will be a more effective solution than prison. This gives people who have been caught up in crime because of drugs or other mental health problems the chance to better themselves. Treatment programs allow people to recover from addiction and to get the mental health treatment they need to get their lives back on track.

Prison isn’t the best solution for people wanting to recover and better themselves. It’s easy to get caught up in more drugs while in prison.

Who usually qualifies for treatment instead of jail time?

  • People who have committed a nonviolent crime may have the opportunity to enter into a treatment program.
  • People who don’t have a past criminal record may get the option to choose treatment over jail time.
  • If the person can demonstrate that they can benefit from rehab they may be given the option to do so.
  • A mental evaluation with a mental health care professional may qualify someone for treatment instead of jail time.
  • If the person can show they are dedicated to improving their self and living a crime free life they may be able to get treatment instead of jail time.

 

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