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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: March 3, 2020 03:47 PM
From: Representative Thomas P. Murt
To: All House members
Subject: Criminal Justice and Mental Health Reinvestment Act
In the near future, I intend to introduce legislation from the last legislative session that would establish a grant program for counties to assist individuals with mental illness from entering the criminal justice system. The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) would manage the grant program which would include planning and implementation funding. The program would entail an application process that would require specific monitoring and reporting requirements to ensure compliance with the criminal justice system and applicable treatment for those with mental health problems/substance abuse disorders.

Planning grants will be utilized as a collaborative effort between respective government entities, the criminal and civil justice systems, mental health and substance abuse treatment service providers and other related agencies. In order to prevent the vicious cycle of those most at risk from entering the criminal justice system and returning, these efforts will help develop a strategic plan and problem-solving methodology to confront the underlying mental health and/or substance abuse issues. By focusing on community-based service programs, we can focus efforts on recovery and public safety rather than incarceration.

The implementation grants will support programs and diversion initiatives. This will include specialized responses by law enforcement agencies, development of alternatives to imprisonment, new court programs, and transitional plans for inmates to be prepared when returning to their community. Overall these programs are designed to prevent high-risk populations from entering the criminal justice system while providing training for criminal justice and treatment services professionals to address the mental illness and substance abuse concerns.

In the past, there have been multiple public hearings and meetings regarding this issue. Studies have shown that 40% of individuals with serious mental illness have been incarcerated at some point in their lives. The legislation I have proposed will be drafted in accordance with the importance of treating individuals with mental illness in a productive manner rather than serving a prison sentence that does not correct the cause of the criminal activity.

Join me in supporting these reinvestment efforts in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that benefit individuals with mental health ailments and help improve the criminal justice system.