NYPD Launches New Emergency Plan To Handle People With Mental Illness
In an effort to reduce deadly encounters between the New York Police Department and people experiencing psychiatric crises, trained mental health workers will start joining police in responding to 911 calls. This comes as part of a $37 million plan announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio in October. The changes to the department come in response to the fatal shooting of  Saheed Vassell  in April of 2018. Officers shot Vassell after believing the pipe he was waving was a gun. Many believe that Vassell’s death could have been prevented if officers had been trained on how to handle his mental illness.
80% Of Women Behind Bars In Iowa Have A Mental Illness
An investigation by television station KCCI in Des Moines found that most inmates in Iowa prisons have a mental illness. In the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women, 80% of the inmates have a mental illness.
Mental Illness
The most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses among inmates include bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse. Many of these women suffer from paranoia or hear voices in their heads. They believe that someone is going to harm them, and they believe everyone around them is their enemy. This is a difficult way to live, especially in prison.
Elizabeth Kelley
Criminal Defense Attorney
Elizabeth Kelley is a criminal defense lawyer with a nationwide practice specializing in representing people with mental disabilities. She is the co-chair of The Arc's National Center for Criminal Justice and Disability, serves on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Disability Rights, Criminal Justice Section Council, and Editorial Board of the Criminal Justice Magazine Learn more .
Further Reading
Families Talk Mental Illness and Prison
The Peace Resource Center located at 3850 Westgate Pl in the neighborhood of City Heights was where a small group of people came together for a huge discussion on “Treatment vs. Prison: Individual And Community Impact.” The discussion happens each third Saturday of the month in the comfortable confines of a room attended by family members of individuals in need of mental health care, but who were, instead, sentenced to prison.
She spent decades going in and out of prison. This program helped turn her life around.
Lisa Stevenson, 48, of Kimberly, attends the volunteer-led Community Circles of Support group on Wednesday in Appleton. Stevenson has spent most of her life going in and out of prison, but has finally achieved a sense of stability after taking part in a program known as Opening Avenues to Reentry Success, which helps offenders living with mental illnesses transition to life outside prison.
Proposed Bill Would Ban Death Penalty for Severely Mentally Ill Persons
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Kentucky lawmakers are considering a bill that would prevent seriously mentally ill defendants from receiving the death penalty.

A handful of other states, including Ohio, Virginia and Indiana, recently have pushed similar legislation.
They Went to Jail. Then They Say They Were Strapped to a Chair for Days.
Allegations in a Missouri lawsuit shed light on how some jail officials use restraint chairs, which have been linked to dozens of deaths.

Shortly after Christmas in 2016, Albert Okal began acting strangely in the Wayne County Jail. He was “jumping around, seeing things,” his lawyer says. The 41-year-old was facing a charge of driving while intoxicated in southeastern Missouri.
Former Chief Of Psychiatry: Arizona Prisons 'Cruel, Dated, Insensitive And Inhumane'
Dr. Leonel Urdaneta chief of psychiatry in Arizona for Corizon Health from 2017 to 2019, wrote in an email, "My reason for reaching out to you is my interests in bringing to light the dysfunctions I was witness to during my two years as head of the Psychiatric Service for the contract, dysfunctions that were part to AZ Correctional Department and of Corizon itself. Those dysfunctions caused tremendous harm to patients, including suicides and severe self-injurious damage.”
FREE E-Book! Families' Guide to Working with a Criminal Defense Lawyer

When your family member with a mental disability has been arrested or charged with a crime, it can be a confusing and challenging experience that leaves you unsure of where to turn for answers. Here are some key things families can do to help the defense attorney handling their case.
Representing People with Mental Disabilities: A Criminal Defense Lawyer's Best Practices Manual

Elizabeth’s book, Representing People with Mental Disabilities was published by the American Bar Association a little over a year ago. Response to the book has been overwhelming with many attorneys and activists happy to have such a resource.Topics include Competency, Sanity, Neuroimaging, False Confessions, and Prison Conditions.
Elizabeth's new book titled "Representing People with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Practical Guide for Criminal Defense Lawyers" will be published by the American Bar Association this Spring. Topics include:
  • Co-Occurring Disorders
  • Testing
  • Competency
  • Risk of Violence
  • Mitigation.  

Read an ex cerpt by Dr. Laurie Sperry, Clare Hughes, and Michael J. Forsee:
Vulnerabilities of Defendants with ASD and Strategies for Improving Outcomes

Given their sensory challenges, a jail cell will untenable for a person with ASD due to the loud sounds, bright lights, and smells prevalent in the cells. For many people, when the cell door closes, they become either the predator or the victim. For people on the spectrum, their social challenges make them especially vulnerable to being exploited and/or the target of aggression from other detainees. They may be in the cell for one night or several, depending on the day of the week, court schedule, and whether bail has been set or other arrangements have been made. Once this phase of the legal journey begins, a person may sit in jail awaiting trial for a prolonged period of time.

Improving Outcomes: It is incumbent upon everyone in the criminal justice system to intervene and protect the rights of the person on the spectrum. Do not assume courts have personnel who are trained to identify people with ASD; remember that such disorders are often not immediately obvious to the untrained eye, and the person may be viewed as combative and/or non-responsive. If the persons with ASD is identified as being such, or discloses that he/she is on the spectrum, the court should be advised immediately that the person is in custody. Arrangements must be made to place the person in a safe holding cell and to whatever is necessary to mitigate the sensory assault and reduce the risk of exploitation.