Bill to Study I/DD in the Criminal Justice System Signed into Law
In February 2023, the West Virginia Senate passed a bill designed to identify intellectual disability (I/DD) and divert those with this type of disability from the criminal justice system. Senate Bill 232 was signed into law by Governor Jim Justice in late March 2023. The new law allows for the creation of a study group to make recommendations concerning individuals with I/DD and the criminal justice system.
According to the text of SB 232, codified as West Virginia Code §27-6A-12, the state legislature found that “persons with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and/or substance use disorder are over-represented in the criminal justice system, and many of these people would not present a danger to the public if they could participate in a robust community behavioral health continuum of care." Therefore, SB 232 was created to develop methods and strategies to divert members of this population from jails and prisons.
SB232 mandates the creation of a multi-disciplinary study group to develop recommendations regarding the diversion of “persons with disabilities from the criminal justice system, promote appropriate interventions and placements for inmates and persons with disabilities, and develop a plan to coordinate care, treatment, and placement for persons with disabilities in the criminal justice system and in the community.” In addition, the group will examine the relationship between persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and West Virginia prisons, jails, and court-ordered placement in the state's psychiatric hospitals.
The SB232 study group will develop placement recommendations for persons with I/DD and inmates. In addition, the bill requires the group to create a plan to coordinate care, treatment, and placement in the criminal justice system and community and work with the state Department of Health Resources department to provide guidance and expertise to assemble the study group.
The study group includes "representatives of several DHHR bureaus; psychiatrists and psychologists; the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and the Juvenile Justice Commission; the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation; the Division of Rehabilitation Services; representatives of prosecuting attorneys and public defenders; the West Virginia Sheriff's Association; the West Virginia Hospital Association; West Virginia Behavioral Healthcare Providers Association; the West Virginia Housing Development Fund; and Disability Rights West Virginia."
Michael Folio, legal director for Disability Rights West Virginia, remarked that “Senate Bill 232 is important legislation that will require clinicians and forensic experts to develop a clinical model to help keep adults and children with disabilities in the community and out of jail” and that “Persons with disabilities are over-represented in the criminal justice system. Persons with developmental disabilities often languish in jail or psychiatric hospitals for years because their community-based providers failed them. Senate Bill 232 is a call to fix the system that promotes incarceration over community integration.”
The bill requires a report to be delivered to the Senate President and House Speaker by the end of November 2023.
If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation, contact us or call (509) 991-7058.

Mental Disability and the Criminal Justice System

A podcast which provides information - and hope - to people with mental disabilities ensnared in the criminal justice system, as well as to their families and attorneys.
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