People lacking a permanent address often don’t know when they are supposed to appear in court. And they don’t have the money to pay the fines that follow.
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Ventura County Superior Court Judge Brian J. Back, a co-chair of the group, said requiring defendants to post money bail unfairly punishes the poor. “Thousands of Californians who pose no risk to the public are held in jail before trial, while others charged with serious or violent offenses may pose a high risk and can buy their freedom simply by bailing out,” Back said.
Our nation’s more than 300 mental-health courts advance justice. A 2009 study by the MacArthur Foundation and the Council of State Governments found they cut criminal recidivism of participants by 20 percent to 25 percent and provide better links to mental-health treatment that lead to productive lives.
The Supreme Court will soon consider whether to hear a challenge to Ramsey County, Minnesota’s fund-raising efforts, which are part of a national trend to extract fees and fines from people who find themselves enmeshed in the criminal justice system.
At the National Mental Health Court Summit earlier this month, Logan Police Sgt. Louise Speth shared a story that has been burned into her memory since the night it happened eight years ago.
A Bexar County specialty court that deals with the mental health needs of girls has received a national award for its innovation and effectiveness serving adolescents in the justice system.
The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office is addressing mental health in the county with the creation of a Mental Health Treatment Court to offer intervention for those who suffer from chronic mental health issues that end up in the court system and to reduce recidivism rates.
Mental health courts are popular in many communities, and it’s easy to understand why. But research is still scanty on the courts’ effectiveness at addressing offenders’ mental health problems or discouraging offenders from relapsing into criminal behavior.
Miami-Dade County has long had a more acute problem than most. By one estimate, more than 9 percent of Miami residents suffer from a mental illness–a rate that is approximately three times higher than the national average. Yet over the course of the past decade, Miami-Dade County has emerged as a national model for how a county can develop strategies to combat the criminalization of mental illness.
Claims of mental incompetence in criminal cases are so infrequent that trial judges and prosecutors often are caught re-inventing the wheel to handle them.