Legal Aid's Chief Attorney to Serve on Mayor's Steering Committee of the City-wide Justice and Mental Health Initiative
MONDAY, OCTOBER 03, 2011

Steven Banks, Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, has been appointed to serve on the Mayor's Steering Committee of the City-wide Justice and Mental Health Initiative. Banks told New York 1 that "one out of every two inmates with mental health issues is returning within 12 months. A third of the inmates in the system have mental health issues, and those that are returning are staying three times as long as others."

Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice Burerau of Justice Assistance and the Valeria Langeloth Foundation, New York City has been selected to partner with the Justice Center of the Council of State Governments to conduct a study of the link between mental illness and repeated incarceration. A plan will be developed to improve New York City's response to the problem, which can serve as a national model.



New York Tonight
NY1 (IND) New York
September 30th, 2011 8:00 – 9:00 PM

Jeanine Ramirez, Anchor: The number of inmates with mental illness on Rikers Island is at an all-time high, but now the Bloomberg Administration wants to do something about it. Political reporter Courtney Gross takes a look at the effort.

Courtney Gross, Political Reporter: Inmates in this building are struggling more than ever. According to the Department of Correction, inmates on Rikers Island who have been diagnosed with a mental illness is at an all-time high; overall, 1 in 3, 60% of the female population, and it’s climbing. While the average population on Rikers declines, these men and women keep coming back.

Steven Banks, the Legal Aid Society: One out of every two inmates with mental health issues is returning within 12 months. A third of the inmates in the system have mental health issues, and those that are returning are staying three times as long as others.

Courtney Gross: So, in response, the Bloomberg Administration set up a task force this week to come up with a strategy to get them help. The city’s Corrections Commissioner says they will examine how to deal with this challenging population.

Dora Schriro, Corrections Commissioner: While they’re in jail, they tend to be a very impulsive, pretty spontaneous population, and so their offenses in jail are rarely premeditated, but when they occur, they can really be quite devastating.

Courtney Gross: At the same time, advocates question why the city wants to end court-appointed monitoring of its discharge planning for these same inmates, the product of a decade-old lawsuit with the Urban Justice Center.

Jennifer Paris, Urban Justice Center: Frankly I’m a little surprised that they are, on the one hand, creating this task force, which sounds very promising, and at the same time opposing the extension of the settlement agreement that requires them to provide services.

Courtney Gross: The Commissioner says:

Dora Schriro: The goal is to divert as many at the front end, to intervene, successfully, as many as we can in the middle, and when we release those at the end, at the end of their detention or their sentence, that we see them less frequently; ideally, don’t ever see them again.

Courtney Gross: Here at the Anna M. Cross Center on Rikers Island, half of the 2400 inmates have been diagnosed with a mental illness; it’s this population that the steering committee is responding to. They plan to meet three more times and adopt final recommendations next spring. On Rikers Island, Courtney Gross, NY1.