In response to the horrific attack on two young children in Brooklyn by a mentally ill man, Assembly Correction Committee Chair O’Donnell introduced A10071 to prevent something like this from ever happening again. The alleged perpetrator had been out of prison for only 9 days after completing service of his sentence, and his parole officer was apparently concerned about his behavior but unable to initiate swift proceedings to evaluate the offender’s mental health. O’Donnell’s bill A10071 rectifies this situation by authorizing regional parole supervisors to initiate involuntary commitment proceedings. The bill also provides mental health discharge planning for inmates prior to release. Senator Catharine Young (R-57) has introduced a companion bill in the Senate, S7818. Upon introducing the bill, O’Donnell announced:
We cannot let this happen again. This recent tragedy is only the freshest example of the dire consequences that result when both our mental health and criminal justice systems fail us. I firmly believe in restorative justice, but when a person is mentally ill and dangerous, the only viable option may be institutionalization, and local officers must be empowered to choose that option when necessary.
My bill A10071 empowers parole officers’ supervisors, regional community supervision directors, to initiate a court review of whether a person supervised by New York State’s Office of Community Supervision needs to be committed. These regional supervisors are the ones that hear parole officers’ and families’ reports about offenders supervised by the state, and can make use of that information efficiently and effectively. The bill also mandates mental health planning for inmates about to be released to ensure they have no gaps in coverage during their transition. Mentally ill offenders supervised by the state cannot be allowed to slip through the cracks, and their parole officers’ warnings should never go unheeded.
I am proud to be joined by Senator Catharine Young in sponsoring this bill, and we urge our colleagues in the Legislature to pass this vital bill as soon as possible to help us prevent another tragedy.
A10071/S7818 would authorize regional community supervision directors to petition for an offender’s involuntary commitment. This would trigger an assessment of the state-supervised offender within 24 hours. A10071/S7818 would also provide for mental health discharge planning for all inmates with mental illness or who receive mental health services while incarcerated.