Alternative Sentencing Programs for the Mentally Ill in New York State

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AlternativeSentencing Programs for the Mentally Ill in New York State

The criminal justice system discovered that most of its publicresources were being spent on a large population of offenders withbehavioral health disorders. A reliable solution to the issueinvolved providing the accused with the appropriate treatment thatenabled them to lead healthy lives. The approach allowed the criminaljustice division to cut some of its costs (Cloud &amp Chelsea 1).The paper seeks to investigate six successful alternative sentencingprograms in the New York state that are used instead of jail orprison.

The Nathaniel Project is a program conducted for people who havecommitted a felony (Walker et al. 22). When a staff of the NathanielProject receives a referral case, he /she meets with the offender,and later with the judge, defense counsel and the prosecutor andconvinces them of the appropriateness of the program. The structureallows the judge to consider the psychiatric needs of the accused,how the schedule works, and the impact of the project on the clientand the community. An individual gets to complete the program if theyattain the set goals that include public safety and positive changesin behavior by the end of two years (Walker et al. 23). Those whofail to complete the treatment can with the assistance of theNathaniel Project staff voluntarily face the court and plead foranother chance to be released to the program. The advantage of theproject is that it hires highly qualified employees who support theirclients, despite the multiple failures, and give them therapeuticcounseling. The only setback was the financial challenge that led toits transition into an Assertive Community Treatment (ACT). Thechange limited the variety of programs for referring their clients(Walker et al. 23).

Another alternative sentencing program is the Bronx Mental HealthCourt in New York. A judge considers whether the offender isnon-violent, above 16 years old, and has committed sexual offenses,murder, and arson (National Institute of Justice n. p). Unlike in theNathaniel Project where the magistrate makes the ruling based onone’s admission into the program, the defendants get to have thefinal say (Kelly 592). The defense and prosecuting attorneys, as wellas the Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities team (TSAC),only get to provide their recommendations. An individual completesthe program by finishing their minimum treatment time that depends onthe nature of their crimes. The Bronx Mental Health Court,prosecutor, defense attorney, TSAC team, and the judge are alsorequired to determine if the client achieved the goals of thetreatment plan (National Institute of Justice n. p). If they do,those with felony charges are allowed to re-plead to a lesser offensewhile those accused of misdemeanor get to have theirs reduced toviolations or are dismissed. Failure to complete the treatmentprogram implies that one has to serve their jail term as provided inthe plea agreement signed before the start of the program (Kelly593). The project is beneficial because it helps to avoid unnecessaryincarceration, but the jail alternative might serve as a setback forthe clients who fail to finish the program the first time even ifthey still have a chance in the future.

Other alternative sentencing programs include the Erie County SharedPopulation Program. The judge considers the nature of the crime andthe mental illness of the offender before placing them under the ErieCounty Probation Department who supervises them as they serve theirsentences and receive medical care and treatment (Division ofCriminal Justice Services n. p). An individual is said to havecompleted the program once they go through the entire model of theshared population project. Besides, during if they demonstratedpositive outcome during the therapeutic reviews, intensive caseplanning, and individualized treatment, their sentence may bedismissed. The alternative program is beneficial as it allows thegovernment to work with other non-governmental agencies such as theHorizontal Health Services, Inc. who provide the offenders with amore person-centered approach (Belenko et al. 2). The disadvantage ofthe alternative program is the use of integrated service approachthat may interfere with its effectiveness when one of the agenciesterminates their relationship without notice.

The Albany County Rapid Assessment Intervention and Linkage Programis another successful program. The structure of the program requiresthe judge to only sentence females who have been diagnosed with AxisI, to supervised probation that is offered by the county’sprobation department in conjunction with the Rehabilitation SupportServices, Inc. (Division of Criminal Justice Services n. p). Anindividual is said to have completed the program if they complete theentire treatment process. The project is beneficial since theprobation officers are trained in crisis intervention and generalmental health that allows them to provide better services to theoffenders (DeMatteo 69). However, the challenge lies in the genderpreference where only females can be admitted to the program leavingout the males with mental disorders to go to prison.

In conclusion, the research found that the alternative sentencingprograms are successful as they improve the conditions of thementally ill offenders and positively influence their behavior. Theprojects have indeed improved the criminal justice system in New Yorksince it allows the vulnerable population to obtain the right mode oftreatment that also results in reduced crime in the state.


Belenko, Steven, Matthew Hiller, and Leah Hamilton. &quotTreatingsubstance use disorders in the criminal justice system.&quot Currentpsychiatry reports 15.11 (2013): 414.

Cloud, David, Davis Chelsea. Treatment Alternatives to Incarcerationfor People with Mental Health Needs in the Criminal Justice System:The Cost-Savings Implications. Vera Institute of Justice,2013. Web.

DeMatteo, David, et al. &quotCommunity-based alternatives forjustice-involved individuals with severe mental illness: Diversion,problem-solving courts, and reentry.&quot Journal of CriminalJustice 41.2 (2013): 64-71.

Division of Criminal Justice Services. Alternative toIncarceration (ATI) Programs. New York. State. Web.

Kelly, McDaniel M. &quotRehabilitation through Empowerment: Adoptingthe Consumer-Participation Model for Treatment Planning in MentalHealth Courts.&quot Case Western Reserve Law Review, vol. 66,no. 2, 2015, pp. 581-607.

National Institute of Justice. Program Profile: Bronx (NY) MentalHealth Court. Crime, 2016, Web.

Walker, Lenore E, et al. Best Practices for the Mentally Ill inthe Criminal Justice System., 2016. Internet resource.