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Conference of Chief Justices President Loretta H. Rush stresses importance of mental health crisis, civics education in ABA address
Williamsburg, Va. (Feb. 6, 2023) -- State courts are embracing collaborative solutions to reduce the number of individuals entering the criminal justice system for mental health treatment and services, according to remarks delivered by Indiana Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush, president of the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ), at the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Midyear Meeting in New Orleans today.
“Jails are not treatment centers, and they were never intended to be,” Chief Justice Rush said in her speech to the ABA’s House of Delegates.
Chief Justice Rush, who also chaired a work group of the multi-year investigation of the National Judicial Task Force to Examine State Courts’ Response to Mental Illness, noted that nearly one in five adults across the country live with a mental illness with more than 13 million adults living with serious mental illness.
“These individuals are 10 times more likely to be incarcerated than they are to be hospitalized,” she said.
To affect change, state court leaders collaborated with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the National Center for State Courts and other local and state mental health providers to develop best practices and policy recommendations for courts and communities.
“These recommendations won’t solve the problem overnight, and we are only beginning to implement solutions,” she said. “But we are committed to their pursuit - justice demands it.”
In her address, Chief Justice Rush also spoke of how courts are embracing new technology and the need for stronger civics education and improving media literacy to emphasize the significant role state courts and state constitutions have in shaping law, forming precedent and protecting constitutional rights.
Founded in 1949, the Conference of Chief Justices promotes the interests and effectiveness of state judicial systems by developing policies and educational programs designed to improve court operations.