NEW YORK CITY — On Monday, Dec. 1, New York City announced that they plan to spend $130 million in order to change the way its criminal justice system handles mentally ill inmates. The plan was issued by Mayor Bill de Blasio, and concerns itself with mentally ill inmates cycling between prison systems, and the way the justice system controls these mentally ill inmates. The plan also desires to look into a way to prevent unnecessary arrests, and then punishing those who commit such minor crimes with treatment rather than jail time.
According to the administration, $90 million will come from city funds, and the remaining $40 million will come from asset forfeiture funds from the District Attorney’s Office. The number of inmates in these city jails with a mental illness of some sort has shot up in the last couple of years, and that number will only keep climbing if the City Administration doesn’t act fast. According to the de Blasio Administration, about 40 percent of all inmates in New York City prisons have some sort of mental illness. In particular, 7 percent of them suffer from very serious mental illness and about 85 percent of them suffer from some sort of drug related abuse disorder.
The main premise around the plan will be to provide mental health screenings to potential inmates before they are arraigned, which will in theory decide whether they are fit for prison or if they need a proper treatment program. The plan will also concern itself with helping former inmates or recently released prisoners, by providing them with Medicaid and other administrative services, in order to prevent future re-arrest.
“For years, the criminal justice system has been the default for dealing with behavior and mental health issues, but that approach alone does not best serve public health or public safety,” said de Blasio in a recent statement.
“This comprehensive plan to identify and divert individuals out of the criminal justice system and connect them with treatment and services to address their underlying issues will mean not only safer streets, but stronger neighborhoods and healthier people,” said de Blasio.
De Blasio and his administration want to look at the future of New York City and strive for a worthwhile and long-term effect. There have been at least 400 people who have been readmitted to a jail over 18 times in the past five years, resulting in very high recidivism rates, according to the city. These recidivism rates have been especially common with former inmates with known mental health issues. Even though crime rates in general in the city have fallen substantially in the past few decades, the amount of actual prisoners within the prison systems who have been diagnosed with some sort of mental illness seems to keep climbing. This could be attributed to the steady decrease and closing of several psychiatric hospitals within the state, but this new proposal should spur such increases and help decrease the amount of mentally ill patients within the New York City prison system.