Today, Assembly Member O’Donnell and Assembly Member Aileen Gunther held a joint hearing to examine the experience of the mentally ill in New York’s correctional system. The hearing was structured to reflect the experience of a mentally ill inmate, beginning with public defenders, through correctional facilities, and ending with families and organizations that facilitate reintegration into the community. At the close of the hearing, Assembly Member O’Donnell said:
The bottom line is that a mentally ill inmate is fundamentally different from other inmates, and must be dealt with in a wholly different manner. By tracking a mentally ill individual’s path through the system, we can get a better sense of how services are provided and whether there is a coherent treatment plan for handing the mentally ill both before, during, and after incarceration. I want to thank Assembly Member Gunther and the many organizations and representatives we heard from today, and I look forward to using the information we learned here to push for a system-wide shift from punishing individuals for actions taken while mentally ill, to helping treat those individuals before those actions occur in the first place.