Resolution 2003-01 - Supporting the Behavior Health Court

Resolution # 2003-01

Whereas, persons with mental illness, cognitive, emotional and developmental disabilities are being incarcerated in increasingly large numbers in the United States largely because of a lack of access to community mental health treatment and other related public services, and

Whereas, approximately one in five persons in American jails and prisons has been diagnosed with a serious mental illness and seventy percent of inmates with mental illness are imprisoned for non-violent offenses, and

Whereas, in the City and County of San Francisco, the City Jail is the largest facility providing mental health services, and

Whereas, in its 2002 Progress Report the National Council on Disability recognized that the criminal justice system is becoming the leading control mechanism for persons with cognitive, perceptual, emotional and mental disabilities, and

Whereas, it is important to question the appropriateness of incarcerating people with these conditions who have committed certain offenses in lieu of treating them in the community, and

Whereas, the effect of incarceration on these individuals is devastating, with concomitant negative impacts on the criminal justice system and the community as a whole, and

Whereas, the Criminal Justice System is intended to deter and punish criminals, and jail settings are essentially punitive and this is the antithesis of a therapeutic environment, and

Whereas, once incarcerated, this population, because of the nature of their disability, has a higher than average disciplinary rate, which often means they have a higher rate of solitary confinement than the general prison population and stigmatization as problem prisoners which may delay release and compound and exacerbate their existing disabilities, and

Whereas, the affected population is at risk of danger from predatory and dangerous inmates while incarcerated, and

Whereas, the result is both increased criminal recidivism and deterioration in their mental health, and

Whereas, the incarceration of this population results in increased costs and increased strains on the delivery of services by the police, courts, prisons, probation and parole services and causes increased harm to all members of the community, and

Whereas, increased costs to the criminal justice system divert resources from education, health care and infrastructure development, and

Whereas, the criminalization of this population limits the ability of peace officers to protect society from the actions of serious criminal offenders, and

Whereas, the affected population losses the ability for self-actualization and the opportunity to contribute to our society, and

Whereas, by offering an alternative to incarceration, the San Francisco Behavioral Health Court preserves criminal justice resources for more serious offenders, while at the same time providing access for treatment for those in need, and

Whereas, the San Francisco Behavioral Health Court has the potential of reducing the costs of incarceration, protecting society from crime and contributing to the increased participation in society of persons with mental and emotional disabilities, while also reducing the likelihood of its client's subsequent re-arrest, and

Whereas, the San Francisco Behavioral Health Court, performs its mission with minimal intrusion upon the civil rights of its clients by providing them with a choice to participate in voluntary treatment and by actively involving them in the development and oversight of their treatment program, and

Whereas, the Public Defender's Office, the District Attorney's Office, Jail Psychiatric Services and other treatment entities are volunteering their already-limited resources for the operation of the Behavioral Health Court, and

Whereas, the San Francisco Behavioral Court currently receives no funding of its own, and consequently is only able to serve the barest minimum number of clients who could benefit from this program;

Now therefore, be it resolved that the Mayor's Disability Council urges the Mayor and Board of Supervisors to support the San Francisco Behavioral Health Court through direct funding, for recognition of the Behavioral Health Court, and by increasing the availability of services necessary for the successful treatment of Behavioral Health Court clients.

December 19, 2003 Mayor's Disability Council - ADOPTED

Ayes: 7 - Norma Block, Ed Evans, Jack Fagan, Eugene Flannery, Michael Kwok, Jul Lynn
Parsons, Denise Senhaux

Abstained: 1 - Ruth Nunez

Absent: 3 - Vincent Behan, Elizabeth Grigsby, August Longo