Message from the Chair of the MHSOAC Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Mental Health
In my 39 year law enforcement career I have had numerous occasions to cross paths with people suffering from mental illness. Addressing mental health needs in the criminal justice system is challenging; we as a society have deinstitutionalized the mentally ill, but have not followed up with enough enhanced levels of community-based treatment. As a result, the prisons and jails have filled up and are now the de facto mental health institutions of today.
We need to do better, and I believe we can. We must find sound and safe alternative ways to divert mentally ill people from the criminal justice system when we can, and to better care for and treat those who must remain in it. Over the next 12-plus months, this Subcommittee will listen to concerns from those with lived experience, their families, and public safety and behavioral health professionals. We will look at model strategies and policies being employed in California and in other states to address this significant and growing issue. We will report findings and make recommendations to the MHSOAC, to other agencies, to the legislature, and to the Governor. Our agenda and goals are ambitious, but this Subcommittee has the potential to drive meaningful change in California, change that will help persons with mental illness who intersect with the criminal justice system. Ultimately, we must increase our understanding and compassion to help make California and all of its communities safer places, with a greater quality of life for all.
--BILL BROWN, SHERIFF of SANTA BARBARA COUNTY and MHSOAC COMMISSIONER
To develop an action agenda for the Commission, supported by key partners and stakeholders, which will reduce the number of individuals with mental illness who become involved with the criminal justice system, and improve outcomes for mentally ill individuals in custody and upon release from custody into the community.