jail-cellsNot until a lawyer witnesses their mentally ill client placed in handcuffs and escorted to jail does the injustice of this law manifest itself. Once they leave the court room, the curtain of the justice system is rolled back. As a criminal defense attorney, you rarely get the opportunity, nor have the time, to know what happens behind the curtain. I made the discovery of those in legal limbo working with the mentally ill behind the stage in my capacity as a supervising psychologist in a jail.

In Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State, I was heartened when he proposed reform of New York’s criminal justice system. True reform cannot be addressed without consideration of the impact of mental illness on the justice system. By 1996, New York state had closed most of the psychiatric hospitals.

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