Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr., for the Markup of H.R. 1854, the “Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act of 2015"

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“H.R. 1854, the ‘Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act of 2015,’ reauthorizes funding for and updates the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2004. 

“I support this bipartisan bill for several reasons. 

“To begin with, the legislation recognizes the fact that approximately 45% of federal inmates, 56% of state inmates, and 64% of jail inmates display symptoms of mental health conditions.   Of the approximate 11 million people who cycle through our Nation’s local jails annually, anywhere between 16% to 60% of this population have mental illness treatment needs. 
“In addition, studies indicate that mentally-ill prisoners tend to stay in jail longer than those without mental illnesses, return to jail more often, and cost local jurisdictions more money while incarcerated.

“The grants authorized by this legislation pertain to various aspects of the criminal justice spectrum, ranging from pre-booking to transitional programs addressing reentry after a prisoner has served his or her sentence.  These grants fund specialized law enforcement-based response programs, mental health courts and other court-based initiatives, jail-based programs, and programs for youth involved in the Juvenile Justice System. Another reason why I support H.R. 1854 is that it expands grants for veterans in the criminal justice system.  

“Specifically, the bill would authorize veterans treatment courts and related programs to help those who have served our Nation, but who are arrested and exhibit behavioral or mental health conditions, including substance addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, and mental health conditions manifesting from traumatic brain injuries.

“Veterans courts help facilitate the diversion of veterans out of the criminal justice system where they can be directed to more appropriate mental health treatment.

 “By funding these specialized programs, H.R. 1854 will enhance our criminal justice system’s ability to meaningfully address the unique mental health needs of our veterans.       

 “Our veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, substance addictions, and other mental health conditions deserve better than being warehoused in our jails and prisons.

“Finally, H.R. 1854 authorizes continued grant funding for the training of law enforcement and correctional personnel to identify and appropriately respond to the mentally ill. 

 “This saves lives and money.  It also supports our long-term goals of criminal justice reform by reducing the number of individuals in jails and prisons and by promoting better relations between law enforcement and the public.

“Law enforcement grant programs fund the development of curricula for police academies and crisis intervention team programs that significantly help to lower the cost of mental health crisis police responses. 

“And, grant programs for correctional officers recognize the crucial role officers play in identifying those inmates who are in need of mental health treatment and are at risk for abuse in a custodial setting.  Our correctional officers need the appropriate training and tools in order to respond to a mental health crisis, to provide for the safety of the mentally ill, and to deliver appropriate treatment and medications.   

 “Accordingly, I support H.R. 1854 and urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.”
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