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The Right Prescription for Mental Health in Criminal Justice

On Wednesday, the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice hosted a policy primer entitled “The Right Prescription for Mental Health in Criminal Justice,” which discussed the intersection between Texas’ multi-faceted criminal justice system and treating those with mental health concerns within it.

Moderated by Derek Cohen, deputy director for the Center for Effective Justice, the panel featured an assortment of experts from across not only different backgrounds, but different levels of government as well: Kate Murphy, mental health policy fellow for the Texas Public Policy Foundation; Katherine Ligon, mental health policy analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities; Veronica Alfalla, peer specialist for the Austin State Hospital; and Stephen Tausend, senior counsel to U.S. Senator John Cornyn in the Judiciary Committee.

Each panelist gave their perspective of the challenges attendant with administering mental health in criminal justice systems, including stubbornly high recidivism rates, expenses, and other issues associated with inadequate care. Solutions aimed at addressing such issues centered around providing timely and appropriate interventions that can curb inefficiencies, as well as recognizing that, in such a geographically large state such as Texas, improving lines of communication between relevant state and local agencies–who may have issues unique to their area–is paramount. Pending legislation at the federal level that seeks to ameliorate some issues that are in ways unique to the Bureau of Prisons was broached as well.

One, if not the most, important perspective of the discussion came from Ms. Alfalla, who herself has grappled with mental illness in the past, coupled with repeated run-ins with the justice system. She provided a key human element to the proceedings, illuminating some of the profound consequences that can exist for those with mental health issues as they enter and leave prison.

Full video of the primer can be found below:

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