An alarming rate of mentally ill people in New York City jails has led the city to create a committee to investigate. Joining the Mayor in this initiative is city Council Member Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), the chair of the council’s Fire and Criminal Justice Committee.
Led by Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and Chief Policy Advisor John Feinblatt, the Steering Committee of Citywide Justice and Mental Health Initiative will attempt to answer why the rates of incarcerated mentally ill has risen, even as crime and overall jail population has declined.
“For all we’ve accomplished in terms of increasing public health and safety for our most vulnerable populations, more work remains to be done,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “Today’s first meeting, where our health and criminal justice experts will be rolling up their sleeves and dedicating their collective energy to confronting these challenges, is an important step to finding solutions to help these men and women succeed.”
According to city statistics, about a third of the city’s inmates have some form of mental illness diagnosis. Further, the mentally ill inmates have a higher chance of becoming repeat offenders, with one out of every two inmates released returning to prison within a year.
“By gaining a better understanding of how we handle mentally ill offenders we will be able to form policies that both keep New Yorkers safe and more effectively rehabilitate inmates,” Crowley said. “I look forward to seeing the results of this study and working with the Department of Correction and all of the members of this committee to improve the current system.”
The committee will analyze how mentally ill patients travel through the criminal justice system and enact proposals designed to correctly treat and rehabilitate the mentally ill in prisons. It is expected to make recommendations by this winter.