New Court For Mentally Ill Offenders

By: Abby Barnett Email
By: Abby Barnett Email

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The criminal justice system and the mental health system are teaming up in a new mental health court. This court will be for mentally ill offenders who commit misdemeanor crimes.

On average, more than 60 percent of inmates in the Sedgwick County jail suffer from a mental illness. This is a percentage this new court hopes to reduce.

"If a person has mental needs and doesn't get their needs met... Booking them into jail five or more times a year doesn't change their behavior," said Jason Scheck, Comcare's Director of Treatment.

This program, Scheck said, will address their illness and get the offender the treatment needed to live a healthy life.

One staff member will attend court hearings, assess the situation, and make recommendations to the court about the treatment which needs to happen.

The judge, as well as the staff member, will be trained in mental health issues and recovery.

"We know when people participate in mental health court they attend more appointments and they get the treatment they need," said Scheck. "There is also a more intensive oversight over the offenders," he said. Not only do they have the case workers, but they have the judge overseeing their treatment as well," he said.

Funding for this Mental Health Court was set aside in the 2005 Criminal Justice Master Plan. A federal grant which will be used to staff the program was also awarded.

This program is expected to be up and running in April.

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