Judge Steven Leifman Receives Pardes Humanitarian Prize for Helping Thousands Towards Mental Health Instead of Incarceration

“Judge Leifman has accomplished something amazing. Thanks to Judge Leifman’s efforts people don’t go to jail but instead receive treatment so they can move forward with their lives in a healthier way.” –Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, President and CEO, Brain and Behavior Research Foundation   In October, 2018, the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, the nation’s largest non-governmental funder of cutting-edge …

Coordination and Communication are Key to Improving Mental Health and Criminal Justice in America

Mental health and criminal justice are a tangled mess in communities all across the country. Rather than supporting health from childhood through old age, our social systems show hardly any signs of understanding mental health at all. We don’t systematically recognize or have the capacity to respond to early indications for concern, and instead rely upon law enforcement to intervene …

National Public Defenders Summit Directives Document Now Available

Public defenders from around the country convened in Denver this spring for the first of its kind event to build consensus for policy and practice reforms.  Top defenders from 21 states and the District of Columbia met for two days to debate reforms to safely reduce incarceration, while improving the lives and wellbeing of individuals living with mental health challenges. Public …

Why Jail is No Place for the Mentally Troubled

In a discussion with The Crime Report about her new book, “Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness,” Alisa Roth, a former Soros Justice Fellow, describes how jails and prisons have become the nation’s principal institutions for treating mentally troubled individuals, and suggests that strategies for developing more humane, treatment-oriented alternatives have to begin at the state and local levels. …

Mental Health Courts and Sentencing Disparities

Despite the proliferation of mental health courts across the United States, virtually no attention has been paid to the criminal justice effects these courts carry for participants. This article provides the first empirical analysis of differential sentencing practices in mental health and traditional criminal courts. The findings are striking: First, analysis reveals that anticipated mental health court sentences typically exceed …

What if we saw jury duty as something to be embraced, not dreaded?

Jury duty is an important element of a fair and democratic justice system. Another strategy to address mass incarceration is to reform juries. Founder of The Juror Project William Snowden doesn’t just want more racial diversity on juries. He also wants what he calls “ideological diversity” and diversity of lived experiences. That’s why the habit of removing people with negative opinions …

Redemption for Offenders and Victims

OFTEN, RESTORATIVE JUSTICE is an adjunct to the criminal justice system or occurs years after that process has concluded. But it can also be a stand-alone alternative. There are few pre-determined expectations other than open-minded and full-throated participation on all sides and a commitment to accountability by the offender. There are so many misunderstandings about what forgiveness is: that if you …

The Court of a Million Chances

Mental health courts, rather than a broad solution to the general problem, are best used when considering the diversion of a small percentage of that target population. However, even that small percentage can fall through the cracks without accessible housing, quality training, and a layered diversion process. “Mental health courts should be used as part of that bigger diversion process,” …

Imprisoning the Mentally Ill: America’s ‘Shameful Tragedy’

“These people are not in Rikers because they’re hardened criminals,” said Jonathan Lippman, former New York State Chief Judge. “They’re there because they have a problem, (and) they don’t need to be brutalized by a penal colony that is a relic of the past. A 2010 survey by the Treatment Advocacy Center found that people with mental illness are nine times more …

Want less crime? Put fewer people in jail

Recent studies show that even short stays in jail can spur a significant increase in a person’s likelihood to reoffend, while longer detentions correlate with even greater odds of recidivism. Overall crime rates are lower than they have been in decades, but the rate of reoffending is up to 65 percent for some populations. Given that recidivism is one of the biggest challenges the justice system …