For Police, A Playbook for Conflicts Involving Mental Illness

PfCJR CORE ISSUE:  Decriminalization of mental health and addictive disorders. 

As reported by the New York Times online.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The 911 caller had reported a man with a samurai sword, lunging at people on the waterfront.

It was evening, and when the police arrived, they saw the man pacing the beach and called to him. He responded by throwing a rock at the embankment where they stood.

They shouted to him from a sheriff’s boat; he threw another rock. They told him to drop the sword; he said he would kill them. He started to leave the beach, and after warning him, they shot him in the leg with a beanbag gun. He turned back, still carrying the four-foot blade.

In another city — or in Portland itself not that long ago — the next step would almost certainly have been a direct confrontation and, had the man not put down the weapon, the use of lethal force.

But the Portland Police Bureau, prodded in part by the 2012 findings of a Justice Department investigation, has spent years putting in place an intensive training program and protocols for how officers deal with people with mental illness.

Read the entire article.

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State grants to help mentally ill, drug-addicted Mahoning inmates

Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform (PfCJR) CORE ISSUE:  Provision of adequate physical and mental healthcare for inmates.

Mahoning County has been awarded a $150,000-a-year, two-year state grant to help county jail inmates and Community Corrections Association halfway house clients with mental-illness and substance-abuse conditions re-enter the community.  Highlights from the article:

  • Tracy Plouck, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, was in Youngstown on Thursday to announce the award of Criminal Justice-Behavioral Health Linkages grants to Mahoning and 37 other Ohio counties. – See more at: http://www.vindy.com/news/2015/nov/20/state-grants-to-help-treat-mentally-ill-/#sthash.ekUrLovh.dpuf
  • The grants total $3 million statewide.
  • The goal is to “bring more treatment into the jail and reduce recidivism (repeat offenses) because people are connected with treatment services,” Plouck said.

Read the entire article at: http://www.vindy.com/news/2015/nov/20/state-grants-to-help-treat-mentally-ill-/#sthash.ekUrLovh.dpuf

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‘Fetal assault bill’ may lead to more drug treatment funding for pregnant women

Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform CORE ISSUE:  Decriminalization of mental health and addictive disorders.

An impassioned and unresolved controversy over whether to continue criminal prosecution of women who give birth to drug-addicted babies has birthed a bipartisan and unanimous committee crusade to spend more state money on treatment for addiction.  Highlights from the article:

  • All members of the state House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, where the opposing sides argued emotionally and at length about the “fetal assault bill” last week, signed on afterward to a proposed state budget amendment that would provide $10 million in new funding “for the sole purpose of drug addiction treatment services for pregnant women and newborn babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome.”
  • The bill, HB1660, appeared on the verge of defeat after a Sevier County judge who presides over a drug court joined others in telling legislators that a two-year experiment in authorizing prosecution of addicted mothers has been a failure.
  • Patrick said the law discourages mothers “from being forthcoming” and seeking help they need. He also said the law ignores alcohol abuse by expectant mothers, a far more common problem — although drug addiction is growing, mostly because of illegal use of opioid prescription drugs.

Read the entire article online at KnoxBlogs.com

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Police Leaders Join Call to Cut Prison Rosters

More than 130 police chiefs, prosecutors and sheriffs — including some of the most prominent law enforcement officials in the country — are adding their clout to the movement to reduce the nation’s incarceration rate.

Asserting that “too many people are behind bars that don’t belong there,” the officials plan to announce on Wednesday that they have formed a group to push for alternatives to arrests, reducing the number of criminal laws and ending mandatory minimum prison sentences. Members of the group are scheduled to meet Thursday with President Obama.

The group includes the police chiefs of the nation’s largest cities, including William J. Bratton of New York, Charlie Beck of Los Angeles and Garry F. McCarthy of Chicago, as well as prosecutors from around the country, including Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney.

Read the entire New York Times article by clicking HERE.

GBI pushes for mental health training for GA officers

Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform (PfCJR) Core Strategy:  Decriminalization of Mental Health and Addictive Disorders.

Following an incident in March 2015 in DeKalb County, GA during which  an officer shot a naked man with mental illness,  DeKalb police increased its CIT training from four hours to 40 hours for all officers.  Read the full article here.

PfCJR is committed to eliminating the detrimental health consequences of interactions with the criminal justice system.  Click here to JOIN US.

Dylann Roof and Assumed Criminality

The recent news of the terrorist attack on the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, SC, has left many of us reeling. The thought that in 2015, that anyone could be subjected to the sort of domestic terrorism popularized by the Klu Klux Klan is truly sickening. As many of my friends and colleagues have joined me in expressing their grief and outrage at this event, one question has continued to come up, time and time again – what can we do to change our nation? How can we alter the hearts and minds of society, so that we no longer produce Dylann Roofs?

Many of the members of Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform are supporters of gun control, but we at PfCJR do not believe that this is the only solution. Whenever a mass shooting occurs, others call for improvements in our care of the mentally ill. While we are proponents for increased resources to treat our mentally ill patients, we do not feel that this addresses the clear racism that is involved in this case.

Dylann Roof said something that was both chilling and very revealing as he reloaded in the church that night, attempting to justify what it was he was doing – he said, “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” Here he was, a young man who had been welcomed into a place of worship and had now decided to kill 9 innocent people – he attempted to kill more – and he justified his actions partially based on the assumed criminality of those present. Some may not be swayed by just that statement, second hand, but on a website registered to Dylann Roof, he writes a manifesto that explains his thinking on the world, particularly as it pertains to race. By far the largest section is devoted to Blacks. What is truly remarkable is that he attributes his “racial awakening” to the Trayvon Martin case.

Not only did he immediately conclude that Zimmerman must have been in the right, but he further searched the internet for more information on “Black on White crime,” and this led him to the Council of Conservative Citizens. This group is recognized by the Anti-Defamation League as a hate group, and its website showed an impressionable Dylann Roof sensationalized stories that they had hand-picked to attempt to prove that Black people are a significant threat to the lives of White people and White women in particular. This, ultimately, drove Dylann from a posture of looking down upon Black people to deciding that the Black race is a violent threat to White society that needs to be eliminated. In his terrorist plot, he decided to let the world know that Black people needed to be killed in the hopes that others would join his revolution.

And that brings us back to where Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform was founded. The assumed criminality of individuals, often based on race, even when logic and objective evidence would say otherwise, has already led to far too much death and violence that we have all witnessed. In this incident, one hateful, sinister young man, spurred on by communities of White Supremacists, are spreading the misinformation that Black people are criminal-minded by their very nature. And how can you blame them? The rates at which the USA incarcerates Black and Brown human beings are staggering nationwide. These numbers and the media coverage of the interaction between non-whites and the police create the caricature of Black and Brown people as inordinately criminal– this despite the fact that many of them find their way to jail for things that would be better treated by a physician – substance abuse and  untreated attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as examples. Further, studies have shown that while substance abuse rates are remarkably similar across races, arrests for drug use are significantly higher for our minority population.

This is why the Criminal Justice Reform movement is being called “The New Civil Rights Movement.” Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform supports the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Capitol grounds, but we also know that, as a country, we must go beyond symbolism if we are going to alter the minds of those who are determined to hate.

We at PfCJR are focused on ways that we can use our expertise as physicians to create lasting criminal justice reform around our ​core issues​. That said, we firmly believe in the concept of “​Health in All Policies​.” We can and must get involved in discussions around any issue that is large enough that it touches the health of our communities, even if it does so indirectly. We must all fight to change the narrative that nurtures men like Dylann Roof. We must change the path that this country is on. We need criminal justice reform, and the time is now. Will you join us?

Vermont’s Prison Chief Says It’s Time to Decriminalize Drug Possession

Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform CORE ISSUE: Decriminalization of mental health and addictive disorders.

According to an article published in SEVEN DAYS:

The DOC commissioner has been following news reports from Portugal, which in 2000 decriminalized all drugs and has since recorded declines in drug abuse and overdose deaths. He’s decided it’s a brave example that Vermont should emulate.

“We should go to the Portugal model, which is to deal with the addiction and not spend the money on the criminal justice system,” Pallito said. “We spend so much money on corrections that could be done differently. The only way to do it is spend less on corrections and more on treatment.”

Click HERE to read the entire article.