excerpt By Gerald E. Nora/ American Bar Association
Mis-using Criminal Justice as Alternative Medicine
"Too often today prosecutors are the new gatekeepers of our nation’s primary system for inpatient mental health care. When asked,
“What are the nation’s three largest psychiatric facilities?”
"They know the answer:
"Los Angeles County Jail, Riker’s Island, and Cook County Jail.
"Typically prosecutors undertake one of two roles with mental health issues.
"There is the traditional role as the “skeptical advocate”—one who contests forensic issues of competency, sanity, guilty but mentally ill, and factors in sentence mitigation.
"But some prosecutors are now accepting the new role as a “diversionary gatekeeper,” using mental health treatment programs as alternatives to criminal charges or traditional sentencing.
"Neither of these roles is sufficient to implement the prosecutor’s duty to promote a just society.
" Prosecutors must go beyond these roles and address a larger injustice that makes both our mental health and criminal justice systems a scandal.
"They must reverse their point of view and recognize that the criminal justice system is a general diversion mechanism for the mental health system."
"If we persist in prosecuting mentally ill defendants in willful ignorance of their medical problems, our system will stand as an asylum whose keepers are as deluded as the inmates."