Americans struggling with addiction and other mental illnesses are much more likely to enter the system of criminal justice. The Pennsylvania State Prison System estimates that more than $140 million is spent annually to incarcerate mentally ill offenders. The State has an adequate number of hospital beds available for patients; however, there is a shortage of mental health providers available for treatment.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 60% of the offenders in the U.S. prison system currently have a substance abuse disorder. The majority of offenders were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time when their crime(s) was committed. The legislature in Pennsylvania recognizes that the traditional criminal corrections model is ineffective in treating the mentally ill. The majority of those untreated are likely to re-offend.
Entry into the Philadelphia Mental Health Court is overseen by the District Attorney's Office. It is part of a collaborative effort in conjunction with the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Their efforts are guided by the Mental Health Procedures Act, which outlines the “rights and procedures for the treatment of mentally ill persons.”
In 2017, the Pennsylvania Mental Health Courts discharged roughly 424 defendants. In the Philadelphia Mental Health Court, about 69% of the offenders were male. Approximately 63% of these individuals were “successfully” discharged. Among those to be discharged, 8% of offenders had committed a subsequent criminal offense.
Eligibility and Disposition
Those defendants admitted to the program are generally non-violent felony offenders. The District Attorney's Office uses its discretion for determining eligibility for admittance. It is a “re-entry” program rather than a “diversionary” program such as the Domestic Violence Diversion or Accelerated Misdemeanor Programs. The offenders are either awaiting to be sentenced or have already been sentenced.
Philadelphia First Judicial District Mental Health Court Overview
These non-violent felony offenders are eligible for intensive mental health treatment and probation supervision instead of being incarcerated. The supervision operates independently from the Philadelphia Prison System and treatment is coordinated through the Department of Behavioral Health. Offenders who have minor violations for non-compliance will have sanctions imposed. Those who are arrested for another offense are typically removed from the program.
Completion of the Mental Health Court Program
The presiding judge may terminate the supervision under the following circumstances:
- The offender has completed the goals of treatment
- The maximum level of treatment has been received
- It is determined that the offender is capable of living independently with medication and/or therapy
- The offender presents no danger to themselves or the public
Those in this program are not eligible for the immediate expungement of their offenses such as those in many of Philadelphia's programs managed by the Diversion Unit. Here, the felony dispositions have already been completed.
Criminal Defense Attorney for Felony Cases in Philadelphia
The Lento Law Firm has been providing effective criminal defense on behalf of clients in Philadelphia for many years. They will ensure your rights are protected and pursue positive outcomes. Those in need of aggressive legal representation are encouraged to contact the office for a consultation at (215) 535-5353.