Juvenile Competency to Stand Trial

Implementation of the National Judicial Task Force to Examine State Courts' Response to Mental Illness Report and Recommendations

The Task Force made a number of important findings, with corresponding recommendations, supported by over 100 new resources for courts and our partner stakeholders. Going forward each Behavioral Health Alerts will revisit an original Task Force resource or a new resource that supports a Task Force recommendation.

Juvenile Competency to Stand Trial The issue of youth competency is ubiquitous in judicial proceedings since youth are cognitively underdeveloped compared to adults. However, youth are usually assumed to be competent even though they have poorer impulse control than adults, lack future orientation, and are more susceptible to peer influence due to an underdeveloped frontal lobe (Steinburg et al., 2015). The causes of IST can differ for adolescents compared to adults; in addition to mental illness and intellectual disability, youth may be too developmentally immature to proceed.

Task Force Recommendations Implementation - Resources and News:

A Brooklyn Judge is Trying to Change the Way Mental Health is Treated in New York In early 2023 acting Chief Judge Cannataro, inspired by the accomplishments of the National Judicial Task Force, of which Judge Matthew D’Emic was a member, decided to establish a dedicated Task Force for New York. Understanding the task that lay ahead, Judge Cannataro appointed Judge D’Emic to chair this significant initiative. The Task Force is expected to implement recommendations put forth by the National Judicial Task Force, which include comprehensive training for judges and court professionals, reform of a competency to trials, establishing the best case management practices, and improving deflection and diversion to treatment.

First-Ever Delaware Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice Integration Summit On May 22 and 23, 2023 the Delaware Judiciary, in partnership with the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), convened the first-ever Delaware Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice Integration Summit to bring together a broad cross-section of criminal justice, law enforcement and public health professionals to discuss, address and collaborate on mental health, substance abuse and trauma in the court system. 500 professionals and community members attended the two-day long event at the Chase Center on the Riverfront. Among the attendees were members of law enforcement, judges and court staff, treatment providers, department of correction offices and probation and parole staff, prosecutors, public defenders, social service staffers and members of community organizations. Featured speakers included Dr. Douglas Marlowe, Dr. Shannon Carey, prosecutor Helen Harberts, Dr. Brian Meyer and Miami Dade County Circuit Court Associate Administrative Judge Steve Leifman.

Research and Resources

Webinar: Mental Health Cases II - Crisis and Opportunity for State and Local Trial Courts Join NCSC and the National Association of Presiding Judges and Court Executive Officers (NAPCO) June 15th at 4:00 PM for the second in a three-part mental health series that takes a closer look at how the nation’s mental health crisis is impacting courts and ways court leaders can respond. The second installment, Mental Health Cases II: Crisis and Opportunity for State and Local Trial Courts, will be a deep dive into the current state and local trial court landscape involving litigants with mental illness and substance abuse, often co-occurring, and sometimes generically labeled “behavioral health disorders.” A panel of judicial experts with “hands-on” experience will explore programs and techniques that have proven successful (and unsuccessful) in addressing mental health cases. Topics will include resource allocation, options for individuals with behavior or substance abuse problems who don’t qualify for treatment courts, and effective ways to help defendants with violent felony backgrounds.

Judges and Psychiatrists Leadership Initiative newsletter Earlier this month, JPLI hosted its Third Annual Leadership Summit to celebrate the Judge Stephen S. Goss Awardees and discuss the value of judicial training on behavioral health. The event recognized judges and psychiatrists who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership to help improve the lives of people with behavioral health needs in the criminal justice system.  This edition of the JPLI newsletter links to a video of that event, a prosecutor's call to action to support appropriate connections to care, a new brief that helps counties advance racial equity, and more.

Virtual Sozosei Convening The Sozosei Foundation invites you to participate in a conversation to explore the role of the built environment in emergency crisis response, and how you can support transformational changes to improve collective and individual wellbeing in order to decriminalize mental illness. Investing in the built environment is an extraordinary and under-utilized lever for decriminalizing mental illness, increasing public safety, enhancing civic participation, addressing inequities, and improving public health.

CSG Justice Briefing Discover the power of supporting incarcerated parents and their families; the high price states pay to incarcerate people for supervision violations; 10 tips for responding to mental health crisis calls; and more.

The Neurological Imprint of Incarceration and Its Effect on Recidivism The idea that incarceration ultimately increases crime is not new. This effect is often attributed to the collateral consequences of conviction: former inmates face disenfranchisement, a loss of employment opportunities, and a restriction of civil rights. But prison takes a neurological toll as well. Like the social and economic penalties that accompany a prison sentence, this too can contribute to reincarceration. We have a vested interest in the long-term effects of prisons on those inside. Since over 95% of inmates will eventually be released, incarceration should not make them more likely to commit crime. But by exposing inmates to the negative neurological effects of toxic stress and trauma, incarceration may have a criminogenic effect. This is supported by a large body of research showing that prison does not reduce subsequent offending, and may actually increase it. However, despite some researchers attributing this consequence directly to the harsh conditions of imprisonment, the relationship is rarely explored on a neurological level.

Telehealth Is Here to Stay: Why Medicaid Should Permanently Require States To Offer Mental Health Services Through Telehealth Expanding Medicaid coverage to permanently include telehealth for mental health services as a required category of care could continue to serve low- income and minority populations forever. By leveraging the ruling in NFIB v. Sebelius, Medicaid could provide incentives to states in return for including mental health telehealth services as a covered category to avoid issues concerning coercion. The United States has a long way to go in addressing the social determinants and racial disparities in health but offering national access to mental health services could be a step in the right direction.

TAC Research Weekly: Marijuana and schizophrenia A study published last month by researchers from Denmark and the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests young males may be especially vulnerable to the effects of cannabis on schizophrenia. In fact, assuming a causal relationship, this new research suggests that one-fifth of occurrences of schizophrenia in young males could be prevented by avoiding cannabis use disorder. This finding has huge implications for the incidence of schizophrenia as marijuana use has significantly increased among young adults and the substance progressively has become more thought of as harmless.

Reminder: Now Accepting Submissions to the Journal for Advancing Justice Vol. V NADCP invites submissions to the next volume of our peer-reviewed Journal for Advancing Justice: “Sustaining Long-Term Recovery as Part of Justice Reform.” This volume is scheduled to be published in spring of 2024 and is supported with grant funding from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Executive Office of the President.

Register Now for Virtual Treatment Provider Training NADCP's National Drug Court Institute (NDCI) provides world-class training to substance use treatment professionals working with justice-involved clients. These training programs, presented in partnership with the American Society of Addiction Medicine, are open to both newcomers and seasoned professionals. Whether you are an addiction therapist, mental health therapist, drug and alcohol counselor, social worker, clinical case manager, clinical supervisor, or student, this program is for you. Registration is now open for our upcoming virtual trainings.

Community Diversion Coordinator Program advocates for jail inmates with mental health issues The program enhances coordination between courts and behavioral health providers to divert defendants with mental illness who are charged with nonviolent misdemeanor offenses from the criminal justice system. Addressing the needs of the growing mental health problems in Texas, the Texas Supreme Court and the Criminal Court of Appeals formed JCMH, and the JCMH grant was used to hire an advocate to help those incarcerated with mental health issues understand what resources are available and connect them to said resources, and assist them in moving through the judicial process with consideration of their alleged crime and mental health.

Better alternatives to mental illness treatments In this, Part 11 of Asheville Watchdog’s “Down Town” series, we’ll look at how other cities have confronted mental health issues — with greater success:

  • A 24/7 crisis center in Tucson, Arizona: Margie Balfour is adamant about calling mental health care what it is: medical care.
  • The seven-story Miami Center for Mental Health and Recovery, the culmination of years of work led by a judge in Miami,Steve Leifman.
  • Alexandria, Virginia’s co-responder police and mental health teams.

In the News

As demand for mental health services overwhelms WA jails, judge revisits settlement Wait times for people in Washington jails to get into state psychiatric facilities continue to “skyrocket” five years after a settlement promised to prevent that from happening, a court monitor told a federal judge in Seattle on Monday. In fact, wait times are worse than in 2015 when state officials faced initial litigation. This week’s court hearing was called after plaintiffs with Disability Rights Washington accused Washington state officials of being in breach of their 2018 settlement agreement, which states people need to be provided evaluations within two weeks, to determine whether they are competent to stand trial, and treatment within another week. According to the court monitor’s early data from April, people in jail are now waiting an average of 130 days before they’re admitted to a state facility for inpatient services.

Opinion: My son the vandal — and the untreated, unaddressed epidemic of mental illness In a courthouse hallway in Los Angeles in early May, I begged my son’s public defender to advocate for a mental health program where he could get the treatment he needed. She wasn’t listening, not to me or my husband or Soma Snakeoil of the Skid Row nonprofit Sidewalk Project, who advocates for our son. At age 34, plagued with mental health and addiction issues, our son has lived unhoused for almost a third of his life — beneath trees, on sidewalks, in abandoned buildings and inside the cab of a truck. Now he was in court because of an outstanding 2020 bench warrant for felony vandalism. He’d broken windows in a commercial building because he saw “something evil” reflected there, causing approximately $40,000 in damages.

When Criminal Justice Systems Have to Deal with Mental Illness The vast majority of violent crimes aren’t committed by people living with mental illness. Studies show those with serious mental illness are many times more likely to be victims of crime than victimizers. “If he goes to prison, he’s almost certainly going to get worse,” Gowensmith said. “I mean mental health treatment in prison is awful. He may not have the same medication regimen available to him in prison. He may not have any interest in taking it after he’s been sentenced. He’s going to be far more likely to be victimized than a victimizer in prison and he’s going to come out worse.”

As inmates await mental health care, advocates say Illinois is slow to help Holloway was charged with his latest offenses in March 2022. Amero requested a fitness hearing in October, and prosecutors did not object to the motion. On Dec. 16, a judge ruled Holloway was unfit to stand trial and should be committed to custody of the Illinois Department of Human Services. Amero notified the state agency immediately, as ordered by the court. But for Holloway, nothing changed. Holloway is just one of dozens of Central Illinois inmates who’ve been declared unfit to stand trial but are stuck in county jails for months as they await critical, court-ordered psychiatric care from the state. Lee Enterprises last month spoke to law enforcement officials across the region, with several reporting wait times over 100 days.


Colorado’s New Well-Being Recognition Program Makes Good Business Sense for Legal Employers The legal community has been put on notice that lawyers and law students disproportionately suffer from mental health and substance use disorders. The problems facing the legal profession that prompted the formulation of local and national task forces have only compounded since the start of the pandemic. Now is the time for law firms and other legal employers that have not undertaken efforts to promote mental health and well-being initiatives within their businesses or organizations to act. It is not only the right thing to do. It makes rational business sense.


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