October 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest

It didn’t take long for Michigan legislators to take notice of a state Supreme Court study examining the efficacy of mental health courts. Less than a month after the study’s release, the House unanimously passed a four-bill package (HB 4694-4697) that statutorily creates mental health courts, thus paving the way for judicial circuits across the state to operate them, Mlive.com reports.

CSG Justice Center Training Curriculum Blends Online Learning, Live Activities

Research shows people with mental illnesses and co-occurring substance abuse issues enter local jails three to six times more often than the general population. That creates a challenge for the nation’s criminal courts.

“The cycling of individuals with mental illnesses through our criminal justice system is a critical issue with implications for public safety, health and expenditures, not to mention the lives of millions across the country,” said Ruby Qazilbash, associate deputy director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Justice Center Releases New Brief on Enrolling People with SMI in Benefits

For people with serious mental illnesses (SMI) leaving jail and prison, Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income/Social Security Disability Insurance (SSI/SSDI) benefits can help ensure access to health care, housing, and other essential supports in the critical period immediately following release. The 2009 passage of healthcare reform legislation expands eligibility for Medicaid, making access to benefits even more important in the transition-to-community process. However, as many practitioners who work with these individuals know, benefits enrollment can be a complex and confusing process.

By Sue Bell Cobb, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice

How many times as a trial judge did I say to victims of crime, troubled youth or dysfunctional families, “I wish I could snap my fingers and make things better. I wish I could snap my fingers and undo all the harm that has caused you to be in court today. Unfortunately, I do not have that kind of power.”

Like most states, Alabama is currently facing the crisis of an overcrowded prison population and a recidivism rate that significantly threatens public safety and exacerbates already bleak state and local government budget shortfalls. Rather than continue to spend vast sums of money on a system that is clearly broken, Alabama is beginning the process of interbranch cooperation to implement effective reforms in the areas of sentencing and corrections at the state and local levels. A number of efforts are currently underway. For the sake of public safety and stark financial reality, Alabama must continue to modify its laws and carry out reforms to lower the costly burden of corrections and stop the revolving door of recidivism.

Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Daniel T. Eismann can attest to the success of the drug courts in his state. As a former drug court judge, he knows full well why the legislature continues to support the problem-solving courts even in tough fiscal times.

Amidst one of the worst periods for states since the Great Depression, courts are not immune to the recession that’s wreaked havoc on state budgets. Even in tighter fiscal times, courts must continue to administer justice.  Specialty courts such as mental health courts are weathering the fiscal storm, according to articles in the June/August issue of Capitol Ideas magazine. The issue focuses on public safety and justice.