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Public Statements

Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Reauthorization and Improvement Act of 2008

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


MENTALLY ILL OFFENDER TREATMENT AND CRIME REDUCTION REAUTHORIZATION AND IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - January 23, 2008)

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Mr. SMITH of Texas. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, I support H.R. 3992, the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Reauthorization and Improvement Act.

This legislation addresses the unique challenges that mentally ill offenders create for our criminal justice system.

I commend Chairman Conyers, subcommittee Chairman Scott, subcommittee ranking member Gohmert, and the many advocacy groups for their dedication and hard work to address this problem.

Madam Speaker, 16 percent of the prison or jail population, or over 1 million prisoners, have a serious mental illness. The Los Angeles County Jail and New York City's Rikers Island Jail house more people with mental illnesses than the largest psychiatric inpatient facilities in the United States. The problem is more than one-fifth of jails have no access to any mental health services at all.

Many criminal justice agencies are unprepared to address the treatment and needs of individuals with mental illness. Jails and prisons require extra staff and treatment resources for inmates with mental illness. In addition, mentally ill offenders can be affected psychologically by incarceration.

H.R. 3992 represents an innovative and new approach to the challenge of mentally ill criminal offenders. This legislation is an important step toward treating mentally ill offenders in a humane and appropriate way.

H.R. 3992 reauthorizes the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act, which encourages early intervention for individuals with mental illness, reauthorizes the mental health courts program, and maximizes alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders with mental illness.

The legislation also encourages training on mental health and substance abuse issues, establishes new State and local planning grants to address the needs of mentally ill offenders, and facilitates communication, collaboration, and the delivery of support services among justice professionals, related service providers, and governmental partners.

I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.

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